Values that create value: Socially responsible business practices in SMEs – empirical evidence from German companies

Business Ethics 18 (1):37-51 (2009)
Abstract
Socially responsible business and ethical behaviour of companies have been of interest to academia and practice for decades. But the focus has almost exclusively been on large corporations while small- and medium-sized enterprises (SME) have not received as much attention. Thus, this paper focuses on socially responsible business practices of SME entrepreneurs or owner–managers in Germany. Based on the assumption that decision-makers in SMEs are the central point where all business activities start, members of a German entrepreneurs association were approached in the course of a qualitative and quantitative survey. They were asked to assess in what way their social responsibility is expressed in specific management practices towards selected stakeholder groups. These practices in turn were assumed to result in perceived positive reactions of the respective stakeholders and subsequently to positively influence the firm's financial performance, i.e. cost reductions and increase in profits. In the paper, a research model is presented that elaborates the relationship between an SME executive's social responsibility and the value creation of a firm, i.e. whether (personal) values create (economic) value. It was found that socially responsible management practices towards employees, customers and to a lesser extent society have a positive impact on the firm and its performance. As such, values can create additional value.
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