CSR logics of owner-managers in SMEs : the case of Malaysia

Soon, Juan Lee (2021) CSR logics of owner-managers in SMEs : the case of Malaysia. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


This thesis aims to generate insights into factors that influence CSR understanding and practices in Malaysian SMEs. The research addresses the limited studies of CSR in SMEs by focusing on owner-managers in the construction and catering sectors as the subject of analysis. The thesis adopts the two most influential theories in CSR studies: stakeholder theory and institutional logics to visualise CSR logic among owner-managers. These two theories are embedded in the 3-level CSR classification analysis, where low-level CSR concerns the legal aspects of the firm, mid-level CSR concerns the primary discretions and high-level CSR concerns non-primary discretions of SMEs owner-managers. The classification demonstrates the key stakeholders and the combination of CSR practices that firms can undertake; the results indicate that a ‘one fits all’ CSR approach needs to be reconsidered. This thesis adopts a qualitative approach and collected primary evidence through face-to-face audio-recorded interviews with 48 owner-managers of SMEs in the construction and catering sectors. The construction firms were chosen using snowball sampling and the catering firms were chosen using convenient sampling. The researcher adopts social constructionist and thematic analysis approaches in investigating multiple perspectives and experiences of owner-managers in relation to CSR. The primary evidence is analysed with computer-assisted qualitative data analysis software NVivo 12 and classifies key themes into 3-level CSR classifications concerning legal, primary and non-primary discretions of owner-managers. The findings reveal that some owner-managers are aware of the term CSR through their higher education. However, the legal, business, and national cultures are stronger factors that influence CSR behaviour. The legal aspects involve the state and industrial logics where local authorities and clients, especially in the construction sector, influence the compliance of SMEs (low-level CSR). The business and national culture involve the karma and corporate logics where primary stakeholders (e.g., customers, employees and suppliers) influence the primary discretion (mid-level CSR operations, e.g., employee benefit) and non-primary stakeholders (e.g., local community, suppliers and charitable organisations) influence the non-primary discretion (high-level CSR operations, e.g., donation) of owner-managers. The differences in practices are highlighted in this thesis and showcase sector-specific CSR practices. There are several contributions of this thesis. First, it addresses the limited studies of CSR in SMEs by providing primary evidence in the Malaysian context. Second, this research is the first sector-specific CSR in the SMEs comparison study between the construction and catering sectors in Malaysia. Third is the development of 3-level CSR classification in order to reveal the firm's different aspects of CSR practices and associated key stakeholders. Overall, the thesis contributes to the knowledge of CSR as well as CSR in developing countries. Furthermore, the development of the 3-level CSR classification approach provides an alternative approach to analyse CSR.

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