Title

The relevance of stakeholder theory and social capital theory in the context of CSR in SMEs: an Australian perspective

Document Type

Article

Publication details

Sen, S & Cowley, J 2014, 'The relevance of stakeholder theory and social capital theory in the context of CSR in SMEs: an Australian perspective', Journal of Business Ethics, vol. 118, no. 2, pp. 413-427.

Published version available from:

http://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-012-1598-6

Peer Reviewed

Peer-Reviewed

Abstract

The concept of business responsibility, usually termed as corporate social responsibility (CSR), originated in the early 1930s after the Wall Street crash of 1929 exposed corporate irresponsibility in large organisations. The understanding of CSR has evolved since then and its scope has now broadened from mere compliance to corporate laws to active alignment of internal business goals with externally set societal aspirations. Unfortunately, the significance of this multidimensional concept within the small and medium enterprise (SME) sector has continued to be overshadowed by its application in large and multinational organisations. More importantly, this has led to the practice of judging SMEs, which are experiencing increasing pressure to engage in social activities, as if they are no different from their larger counterparts. This study therefore investigates CSR from the perspective of SMEs in Australia without any theoretical presumptions and then comments on the relevance and applicability of the two theories that have been commonly used to investigate business responsibility, namely, stakeholder theory (ST) and social capital theory (SCT). The research findings indicate that CSR within the SME sector is more aligned to the fundamentals of SCT, mainly owing to the unique resource and survival challenges that they face, and which are, arguably, not so pronounced in large organisations.