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CSR in SMEs: strategies, practices, motivations and obstacles

Maria Santos (Technical University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal)

Social Responsibility Journal

ISSN: 1747-1117

Article publication date: 2 August 2011




Given the greater recognition of the role played by small and medium‐sized enterprises (SMEs) within the European economy, this research aims to provide an insight into SME CSR practices. Within this scope, the objective is to identify accurately and extensively: CSR practices at the social, economic and environmental levels; the motivations, perceived benefits, existing obstacles; and the types of support and strategies that render possible an explanation of the factors which place the greatest restrictions on SME adoption of CSR practices.


This research was realized through the completion of a questionnaire type inquiry structured around table‐based analysis. The questionnaire was sent out to a large sample of SMEs in Portugal.


The main results demonstrate that, while CSR takes on an informal, non‐structured character, it has been incorporated into the daily management of such companies. Furthermore, contrary to what happens at large companies, CSR at SMEs is fundamentally internally focused and results from attention to the potential benefits to the business from gains in eco‐efficiency, a better social climate or a higher profile in the local community. The emphasis is on the adoption of simple, easily applicable and cheap measures and normally with specific results exemplifying how SME CSR is located on the border between entrepreneurialism and business management and that of business citizenship.

Research limitations/implications

It is not possible to extrapolate the data obtained since the study focused only on mainland Portugal.

Practical implications

The fact that the study clarifies the strategies and motivations of CSR in SMEs makes possible the development of active policies to promote CSR in the universe of these companies.


Because the studies on SME CSR remain rare, this research contributes to a better understanding of the dynamics, motivations and strategies of CSR in the SMEs case.



Santos, M. (2011), "CSR in SMEs: strategies, practices, motivations and obstacles", Social Responsibility Journal, Vol. 7 No. 3, pp. 490-508.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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