School of Management
Royal Holloway University of London

The Centre for Research into Sustainability

Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs), Business Ethics, CSR and Sustainability

Project Description

Work on business ethics and (corporate) socially responsibility in small and medium sized enterprises is an ongoing project within CRIS and one for which there is a substantial history since the late 1990s. The CSR language and approach does not suit the small firm perspective, yet academic and policy approaches continue to overlook this fact, despite the dominance of SMEs in the private sector (usually around 90%).

One aspect of this work involved investigation into social capital and SMEs in Germany and the UK sponsored by the Anglo-Germany Foundation, with André Habisch (University of Eichstaett-Ingolstadt, Germany) and Rene Schmidpeter (Bertelsmann Foundation, Germany). More recently, a global research project on Ethics in Small and Medium Sized Enterprises is underway with contributors from every continent under the auspices of the International Society of Business, Economics and Ethics. The project is led by Dr Laura J. Spence.  

This wider project on ethics and (C)SR in SMEs is ongoing. 


Primarily empirical.

Key publications

Spence, L.J. (2007) CSR and Small Business in a European Policy Context: The Five ‘C’s of CSR and Small Business Research Agenda 2007. Business and Society Review, 112.4, 533-552.

Moore, G. and Spence, L.J. (2006) Guest Editors: Special Issue on Small and Medium-sized Enterprises and Corporate Social Responsibility: Identifying the Knowledge Gaps Journal of Business Ethics, 67(3).

Spence, L.J., Habisch, A. and Schmidpeter, R. (eds) (2004) Responsibility and Social Capital: the World of SMEs. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke.

Spence, L. J. and Rutherfoord, R. (2003) Guest Editors: Special Issue on Small Business and Empirical Perspectives in Business Ethics Journal of Business Ethics 47(1).

Spence, L.J. (2000) Practices, Priorities and Ethics in Small Firms. Institute of Business Ethics, London.

Spence, L.J. (1999) ‘Does Size Matter?: The State of the Art in Small Business Ethics’ Business Ethics: A European Review, July, 8(3), 163-174.


Laura Spence (Royal Holloway, University of London)

Where next for sustainable enterprise? Policy & research perspectives

Presentation by Dr Laura J. Spence