Small Business and Social Irresponsibility in Developing Countries: Working Conditions and “Evasion” Institutional Work

Business and Society 57 (7):1301-1336 (2018)

Abstract

Small businesses in developing countries, as part of global supply chains, are sometimes assumed to respond in a straightforward manner to institutional demands for improved working conditions. This article problematizes this perspective. Drawing upon extensive qualitative data from Tirupur’s knitwear export industry in India, we highlight owner-managers’ agency in avoiding or circumventing these demands. The small businesses here actively engage in irresponsible business practices and “evasion” institutional work to disrupt institutional demands in three ways: undermining assumptions and values, dissociating consequences, and accumulating autonomy and political strength. This “evasion” work is supported by three conditions: void, distance, and contradictions. Through detailed empirical findings, the article contributes to research on both small business social responsibility and institutional work.

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