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Date: 11 Mar 2014

CSR and Related Terms in SME Owner–Managers’ Mental Models in Six European Countries: National Context Matters


As a contribution to the emerging field of corporate social responsibility (CSR) cognition, this article reports on the findings of an exploratory study that compares SME owner–managers’ mental models with regard to CSR and related concepts across six European countries (Belgium, Italy, Norway, France, UK, Spain). Utilising Repertory Grid Technique, we found that the SME owner–managers’ mental models show a few commonalities as well as a number of differences across the different country samples. We interpret those differences by linking individual cognition to macro-environmental variables, such as language, national traditions and dissemination mechanisms. The results of our exploratory study show that nationality matters but that classifications of countries as found in the comparative capitalism literature do not exactly mirror national differences in CSR cognition and that these classifications need further differentiation. The findings from our study raise questions on the universality of cognition of academic management concepts and warn that promotion of responsible business practice should not rely on the use of unmediated US American management terminology.