In this paper the exclusive focus on large firms in the field of business ethics is challenged. Some of the idiosyncrasies of small firms are explained, and links are made between these and potential ethical issues. A review of the existing literature on ethics in small firms demonstrates the lack of appropriate research, so that to date we can draw no firm conclusions in relation to ethics in the small firm. Recommendations are made as to the way forward for small (...) firm business ethics research. Questions for investigation are suggested using micro, meso and macro perspectives. Much exploratory work needs to be done to lay the groundwork for this important area of social and commercial research in the future. (shrink)
"Social capital" can be considered to be the product of co-operationbetween various institutions, networks and business partners. It haspotential as a useful tool for business ethics. In this article weidentify categories pertinent to the measurement of social capital insmall and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). By drawing on three differentsectors, one business-to-business service, one business-to-customerservice, and one manufacturing, we have enabled the consideration ofsectoral differences. We find sector to play an important part inrelation to business practices and social capital. Our inclusion (...) of SMEsfrom Germany and the United Kingdom has called attention to cultural,institutional and economic aspects of two regions of Europe and how theycan influence SME social capital. Social capital is found to beinfluenced by context and, in particular, institutional arrangements. Inanalysing the data we note particular areas of interest from the pointof view of SMEs and social capital as being: formal engagement,networking within sectors, networking across sectors, volunteerism andgiving to charity, and finally a focus on why people engage. We concludethat there is a considerable amount of further research needed on socialcapital, SME''s and business ethics. (shrink)
Based on the findings of a qualitative empirical study of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in Swiss MNCs and SMEs, we suggest that smaller firms are not necessarily less advanced in organizing CSR than large firms. Results according to theoretically derived assessment frameworks illustrate the actual implementation status of CSR in organizational practices. We propose that small firms possess several organizational characteristics that are favorable for promoting the internal implementation of CSR-related practices in core business functions, but constrain external communication and (...) reporting about CSR. In contrast, large firms possess several characteristics that are favorable for promoting external communication and reporting about CSR, but at the same time constrain internal implementation. We sketch a theoretical explanation of these differences in organizing CSR in MNCs and SMEs based on the relationship between firm size and relative organizational costs. (shrink)
This editorial to the special issue addresses the often overlooked question of the ethical nature of social enterprises. The emerging social entrepreneurship literature has previously been dominated by enthusiasts who fail to critique the social enterprise, focusing instead on its distinction from economic entrepreneurship and potential in solving social problems. In this respect, we have found through the work presented herein that the relation between social entrepreneurship and ethics needs to be problematized. Further, we find that a range of conceptual (...) lenses and methodological approaches is valuable as the social entrepreneurship field matures. (shrink)
The notion of stakeholder salience based on attributes (e.g., power, legitimacy, urgency) is applied in the family business setting. We argue that where principal institutions intersect (i.e., family and business); managerial perceptions of stakeholder salience will be different and more complex than where institutions are based on a single dominant logic. We propose that (1) whereas utilitarian power is more likely in the general business case, normative power is more typical in family business stakeholder salience; (2) whereas in a general (...) business context legitimacy is socially constructed; for family stakeholders, legitimacy is based on heredity; and (3) whereas temporality and criticality are somewhat independent in general-business urgency, they are linked in the family business case because of family ties and family-centered non-economic goals. We apply this theoretical framework to position and integrate the contributions to this special section of Business Ethics Quarterly on “Stakeholder Theory, Ethics, Corporate Social Responsibility, and Family Enterprise.”. (shrink)
In this paper we report on empirical research which investigates social capital of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs). Bringing an international perspective to the work, we make a comparison between 30 firms located in West London and Munich in the sectors of food manufacturing/production, marketing services and garages. Here we present 6 case studies, which we use to illustrate the early findings from this pilot project. We identify differences in approach to associational membership in Germany and the U.K., with (...) a greater propensity to "belong" to an official group in Germany. We distinguish clear sectoral similarities across the countries, and indications that certain personality types will seek out engagement and find time beyond busy work life schedules, often merging work/home/leisure life and friends. Some of our cases illustrate that formal institutions, networks and mutual relationships can develop social capital for the SME, although we should take care not to assume a universal win-win situation for those who are engaged and contribute to the common good. Some of the obstacles to cooperation and civic engagement are outlined. (shrink)
This article seeks to expand business and society research in a number of ways. Its primary purpose is to redraw two core corporate social responsibility theories, enhancing their relevance for small business. This redrawing is done by the application of the ethic of care, informed by the value of feminist perspectives and the extant empirical research on small business social responsibility. It is proposed that the expanded versions of core theory have wider relevance, value, and implications beyond the small firm (...) context. The theorization of small business social responsibility enables engagement with the mainstream of CSR research as well as making a contribution to small business studies in scholarly, policy, and practice terms. (shrink)
In this editorial to a collection of papers on ethics in small firms, the case is made for greater use of high quality empirical research on business ethics. Sociological perspectives have much to offer to the field of business ethics that continues to be dominated by normative, moral philosophy. The second contribution of the paper is to argue for a reorientation away from the large multi-national firm as a benchmark subject of business ethics research. One important point of view to (...) be included is that of the small firm, which remains the dominant organisational form throughout all the OECD countries. (shrink)
This article introduces the important issue of communicating with small firms about ethical issues. Evidence from two research projects from the U.K. and Spain are used to indicate some of the important issues and how small firms may differ from large firms in this area. The importance of informal mechanisms such as the influence of friends, family and employees are highlighted, and the likely ineffectiveness of formal tools such as Codes and Social and Ethical Standards suggested. Further resarch in the (...) area of small firms and ethics is essential. (shrink)
The notion of stakeholder salience based on attributes is applied in the family business setting. We argue that where principal institutions intersect ; managerial perceptions of stakeholder salience will be different and more complex than where institutions are based on a single dominant logic. We propose that whereas utilitarian power is more likely in the general business case, normative power is more typical in family business stakeholder salience; whereas in a general business context legitimacy is socially constructed; for family stakeholders, (...) legitimacy is based on heredity; and whereas temporality and criticality are somewhat independent in general-business urgency, they are linked in the family business case because of family ties and family-centered non-economic goals. We apply this theoretical framework to position and integrate the contributions to this special section of Business Ethics Quarterly on “Stakeholder Theory, Ethics, Corporate Social Responsibility, and Family Enterprise.”. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
Involvement is an important element of good research and a route to impact. In line with early organizational analysis, we advocate involvement with research stakeholders and investing in the necessary communication and rhetorical skills.
This paper advances stakeholder salience theory from the viewpoint of small businesses. It is argued that the stakeholder salience process for small businesses is influenced by their local embeddedness, captured by the idea of social proximity, and characterised by multiple relationships that the owner-manager and stakeholders share beyond the business context. It is further stated that the ethics of care is a valuable ethical lens through which to understand social proximity in small businesses. The contribution of the study conceptualises how (...) the perceived social proximity between local stakeholders and small business owner-managers influences managerial considerations of the legitimacy, power and urgency of stakeholders and their claims. Specifically, the paradoxical nature of close relationships in the salience process is acknowledged and discussed. (shrink)
Social capital has as its key element the value of social relationships to generate positive outcomes, both for the key parties involved and for wider society. Some authors have noted that social capital nevertheless has a dark side. There is a moral element to such a conceptualisation, yet there is scarce discussion of ethics within the social capital literature. In this paper ethical theory is applied to four traditions or approaches to economic social capital: neo-capitalism; network/reputation; neo-Tocquevellian; and development. Each (...) is considered in detail and subject to ethical analysis by the application of utilitarianism, Kantianism, justice and rights, and ethic of care. Accordingly, the assumption that social capital is either value-neutral or a force for good is critiqued, and a framework for understanding social capital from an ethics perspective is presented. (shrink)
Traditionally, the term "scholarship" has been narrowly defined as discovery-based research. Teaching in higher education, by contrast, is perceived as an intellectually inferior activity. However, the teaching-research divide is a crude distinction which fails to capture the richness of scholarly endeavour in all disciplines. Drawing on Boyer''s four forms of scholarship, it is argued that academic work in business ethics needs to be reconceptualised in terms which honour and value all contributions. This special issue of the Journal of Business Ethics, (...) arising from an international conference on the teaching of business ethics, is illustrative of the scholarship of discovery, integration, application and teaching. (shrink)
Cooperation in business ethics research is important across disciplines, to help strengthen the base of a field which is still new in Europe. A study on recruitment interviewing in Germany, U.K. and the Netherlands is used to demonstrate the value of interdisciplinary business ethics research, particularly across cultures.