Varieties of capitalism and small business CSR: a comparative overview
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Given the limited research on Small and Medium-sized Enterprises’ (SMEs) contribution to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and even scarcer research on Swiss SMEs, this paper helps to fill these gaps by enabling the identification of supra-national SME parameters. Thus, the paper investigates the current state of SME practices in Switzerland and across 15 other countries. Combining the degree to which SMEs demonstrate an explicit (or business case) approach or see CSR as an implicit moral activity with the assessment of their attributes for “variety of capitalism” defines the framework of this comparative analysis. To outline Swiss small business CSR patterns in particular, 40 SME owner-managers were interviewed. A secondary data analysis of studies from different countries laid groundwork for this comparative overview of small business CSR. The paper identifies Swiss small business CSR as driven by norms, values, and by the aspiration to contribute to society, thus, as an implicit part of the day-to-day business. Similar to most Central European, Mediterranean, Nordic, and Asian countries, explicit CSR is still very rare in Swiss SMEs. Astonishingly, also British and American SMEs follow this pattern in spite of their strong and distinctly liberal market economies. Though other findings show that nationality matters this research concludes that SME culture and an informal CSR agenda are strongly formative and superseding even forces of market economies, nationally cultural patterns, and language. Hence, classifications of countries by their market system, as found in the comparative capitalism literature, do not match the CSR practices in SMEs as they do not mirror the peculiarities of their business. This raises questions on the universality and generalisability of unmediated, explicit management concepts, especially in the context of small firms.
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