Academic journal article Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship

Small Business Manager Attitudes Relating to the Significance of Social Responsibility Issues: A Longitudinal Study

Academic journal article Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship

Small Business Manager Attitudes Relating to the Significance of Social Responsibility Issues: A Longitudinal Study

Article excerpt

Executive Summary

This paper reports on an inquiry into the commitment of small business managers to the social responsibility doctrine in 1995 and 2005. A survey effort revealed that these managers possess a high degree of commitment. Further, it indicated that the managers are relatively homogeneous in their prioritizing of important issues. Finally, it found that educational attainment, income level, degree of religious belief, and commitment to profit attainment were all associated with dedication to social responsibility.

Introduction

Social responsibility occupies a well-established position in the objectives of both large and small business organizations today (Sauser, 2005;Tixier, 2003). Educators, journalists, governmental agencies, politicians, business managers, and the public at large have espoused support for the position that for-profit enterprises should act in a socially acceptable manner. However, these various individuals and agencies are not in full agreement as to the degree to which companies should embrace this goal and the major issues that should receive priority status (Valor, 2005). There is near universal consensus on the position that managers cannot ignore this topic. Business social responsibility has a major impact upon the economy, the ecology, society at large, and various segments of the population, such as the disadvantaged and the elderly.

Small business occupies a key role in the economy of the United States. These firms are the backbone of commerce in this country (Van Stel, Carrée, & Thurik, 2005; Mittelstaedt, Harben, & Ward, 2003). Small manufacturing firms account for the overwhelming majority of all manufacturing employers in the U.S. (U.S. Bureau of the Census. 2000). Small companies are a very significant producers of new products and services (Besser & Miller, 2004;Olsson & Frey, 2002). They are a major engine for growth in jobs and GDP (Reynolds, 2003). These enterprises are responsible for much of the creation of wealth (Enderle, 2004;Acs & Phillips. 2002). In sum, they are major contributors to the wellbeing of the economy. Given their significance, there is a need for understanding of the commitment of small business managers to social responsibility.

In many cases, large corporations receive the bulk of the demands for more socially responsible behavior (Lester, Tomkovick, Wells. Flunker. & Kickul. 2005). Journalists. for instance, often decry that larger firms should become involved in activities such as hiring the disadvantaged. cleaning up air and water pollution, and reducing drug abuse (Adams, 2005; Maignan & Ralston, 2002). Politicians in this and other countries suggest that large firms should improve employee health and safety standards and reduce the consumption of scarce resources such as water (Pedersen, 2004; KoIk & Van Tulder, 2002). These and other pressures may account for the fact that much of the demand for more socially responsible behavior is directed to larger firms.

There are a number of unanswered questions relating to the social responsibility stance of small business managers. To what extent are these managers committed to this philosophy? What special social responsibility issues are of the greatest significance, in their view. What attributes of small business managers are related to a conviction to social responsibility? Answers to these and related questions were sought by the research effort upon which this paper was based.

Survey of the Literature on Social Responsibility

The concept and definition of company social responsibility has an impressive history. Essentially the construct had its incipience in the 1950's; definitions expanded during the 1960's and proliferated during the 1970's; research became extensive during the 1980's; and new theories were generated during the 1990's (De Bakker, Groenewegen & Den Hond, 2005; Carroll, 1999; Smith & Higgins, 2000). …

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