Social responsibility among small and medium enterprises in KwaZulu-Natal.
Globally, the social responsibility of business has become an important issue in recent years. In South Africa, it has assumed even greater significance given the enormity of the socio-economic problems besetting the country. There is an extensive body of literature pertaining to the social responsibility of large organizations, but little theoretical or empirical research has been undertaken within small and medium enterprises, notwithstanding the important role they play in the economy of a country. In cognizance of the aforementioned, this study wishes to expand the body of knowledge in respect of the social responsibility of small and medium enterprises, by examining the perceptions and behaviour of SMEs in KwaZulu-Natal regarding their social responsibility. The target population for the study was derived from the membership list of the three largest business organisations in KwaZulu-Natal, viz. the Durban Chamber of Commerce & Industry, the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business, and the Zululand Chamber of Business, and consisted of organisations employing no fewer than 20, and no more than 200 employees. In general, it emerged that the majority of SMEs in KZN are involved, to a large extent, in socially responsible activities related to their employees, but are minimally involved in socially responsible activities pertaining to the community and the natural environment. However, despite their low level of engagement in the latter, the majority of SMEs in KZN rated their businesses as being either successful or very successful. The most commonly cited reasons for a lack of greater involvement in CSR activities were a lack of time/manpower, and the costs/impact on profits resulting from engagement in CSR activities. The study recommends, inter alia, that the local Chambers of Business and sectoral bodies should play a more active role in fostering CSR among SMEs; that the strategies and initiatives used to foster CSR among large businesses should not be used for SMEs, and that the phrase 'small business responsibility' should be used instead of the term 'corporate social responsibility', as the latter might invoke fear and resistance on the part of SMEs. In light of the research findings, the study concludes by proposing a model/guide to assist SMEs in KZN to become (more) socially responsible.