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SMEs and CSR: An Approach to CSR in their Own Words


The academic literature reveals the need to undertake more in-depth field studies in order to discover the organisational culture, the difficulties and the perceptions surrounding CSR in SMEs. This study presents the results of analysis of four case studies on Catalan companies that stand out for their social and environmental practices. The conclusions of this paper are the result of dialogue with the main actors – four medium-sized companies – focusing on their actions, understandings and resistance with regard to CSR. The methodological perspective used was Grounded Theory, with the aim of the study being to contribute towards formalising CSR in SMEs, in their daily practices, by analysing some primary data. The results obtained show how difficult it is for SMEs to understand CSR, beyond the explanation of the specific practices carried out by the companies. They highlight the role played by the values of the founding director in the implementation of CSR programmes; they reveal that SMEs still have a long way to go towards learning how to inform both internal and external stakeholders of their best practices, and; finally, they show the interesting links that SMEs establish between responsible practices, improved competitiveness and economic results. Finally, the text points out the implications that the results of this analysis may have on creating ways of promoting CSR in SMEs. We believe that, in light of the opinions expressed by the companies, public organisations should try to concentrate on creating a favourable framework for responsible competitiveness, as a way to deal with CSR when addressing SMEs.

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Author information

Correspondence to David Murillo.

Additional information

David Murillo is a Researcher at the Institute for the Individual, Corporations and Society (IPES), ESADE Business School, Universitat Ramon Llull and Academic Assistant at the same institution. He is the current coordinator of the SMEs and CSR research field at IPES. He holds a degree in Business Administration, a degree in Human Studies and a diploma in Sociology. He is currently pursuing his PhD in SME CSR.

Josep M. Lozano is currently a Professor in the Department of Social Sciences at ESADE, Universitat Ramon Llull and Director of the school’s Institute for the Individual, Corporations and Society (IPES). Co-founder of Ética, Economía y Dirección (Spanish branch of the European Business Ethics Network), member of the international Editorial Board of ‘Ethical Perspectives’ and member of the Business Ethics Inter-faculty group of the Community of European Management Schools (CEMS). He has been a highly commended runner-up in the European division of the Beyond Grey Pinstripes Faculty Pioneer Award. Author of Ethics and Organizations. Understanding Business Ethics as a Learning Process. Dordrecht: Kluwer, 2000.

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Murillo, D., Lozano, J.M. SMEs and CSR: An Approach to CSR in their Own Words. J Bus Ethics 67, 227–240 (2006).

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  • business case study
  • CSR motivations
  • CSR perception
  • public policy
  • qualitative research
  • SMEs
  • responsible competitiveness