Academic journal article Journal of Small Business Strategy

Being Good for Goodness Sake: The Influence of Family Involvementonmotivations to Engage in Small Business Social Responsibility

Academic journal article Journal of Small Business Strategy

Being Good for Goodness Sake: The Influence of Family Involvementonmotivations to Engage in Small Business Social Responsibility

Article excerpt


Small family and nonfamily firms are acknowledged to serve as important facilitators of social responsibility within their communities; however, both have received relatively little attention in the literature for these efforts or their motivation for undertaking them. Grounded in Enlightened Self-Interest (ESI) and intentions, we explore motivations for participation in socially responsible behaviors and the moderating effect of family involvement. We develop measures for small business social responsibility (SBSR), ESI, and SBSR intentions. Our analyses indicate positive direct effects exist for both SBSR intentions and ESI on engagement in SBSR. We find that family involvement strengthens the relationship between ESI and participation in civic SBSR, thus suggesting that family firms may be partially motivated to "do good" in visible forms of SBSR to protect their own interests.

Keywords: Family business, small business, social responsibility, enlightened self-interest, theory of planned behavior


Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has been heavily examined in the context of large, publicly traded corporations, yet little research has focused on CSR in small businesses (Gallo, 2004; Debicki, Matherne, Kellermanns, & Chrisman, 2009). Large corporations and small businesses likely share some similar motivations for engaging in CSR activities; however, a growing body of literature draws attention to differences across factors motivating small businesses to engage in these activities. Specifically, scholars argue that family firms differ from nonfamily firms in their general concern for CSR issues, as well as the types of social issues they view as most salient (Déniz & Suárez, 2005; Dyer & Whetten, 2006). Such research indicates that the underlying motives for engaging in small business social responsibility (SBSR) likely differ across family and nonfamily firms.

Traditional economic theory asserts that the role of managers is to maximize profits; however, a behavioral theory perspective of the firm (Cyert & March, 1963) counters this view by asserting that managers do not have perfect information, operate in a realm of bounded rationality, and may choose to pursue non-economic goals that divert resources from profit-maximization (Chrisman, Chua & Sharma, 2005). Chrisman, Chua, Pearson, and Barnett (2012: 268) contend that the pursuit of noneconomic goals, "are likely to reflect the values, attitudes, and intentions of a firm's dominant decision-making coalition;" thus, the motives for family businesses to pursue CSR activities may reflect the family's desire to engage in activities that align with their personal values or that may be seen as instrumental actions leading to reciprocity from community stakeholders. Family business scholars posit that it may be this emphasis on and pursuit of non-economic goals that distinguish family businesses from nonfamily businesses in undertaking a number of behaviors (e.g., Chrisman et al., 2005; Westhead & Howorth, 2007), including social responsibility.

We believe the extant literature in this area points to two important research questions. Investments in CSR activities often shift the firm's focus from the primary profitseeking function and may require a longterm orientation; thus, the question arises regarding what factors motivate small business owners to pursue such actions. Additionally, since prior researchers posit that small family and nonfamily businesses differ in their interest in and propensity to participate in social responsibility, do small family and nonfamily businesses differ in their motivation for and involvement in socially responsible behaviors? In an attempt to answer these questions, we employ enlightened self-interest (ESI) and intentions perspectives to propose motives for small businesses' participation in socially responsible behaviors. Further, we examine the role of family involvement for its effect on the relationships between ESI and SBSR intentions and engagement in socially responsible behaviors. …

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