Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) : Towards the development of socially sustainable communities
Sammanfattning: Background: Ever since the Brundtland Commission stressed that Social Sustainability (SS) issues are often ignored, there has been mounting research on social sustainability (Boström, Vifell, Klintman, Soneryd, Hallström & Thedvall, 2015). Companies are now addressing sustainability concerns more broadly because of the increasing demand and pressure from society demanding they deal with the negative social impacts associated with their products and activities. This study is delimited to SMEs. While individual SMEs are naturally smaller and have less impact on sustainability than larger businesses, their involvement is important in achieving national SS targets (Weingaertner & Moberg, 2011). Sustainability is often regarded as the privilege of large corporations since they have sufficient funds to improve their carbon footprint (Rodgers, 2010). The activities of SMEs are not well understood and documented, including their entrepreneurial start-ups within communities, of which some are entirely based on sustainable principles (Rodgers, 2010). Given that SMEs play an important role towards sustainable development, understanding the underlying mechanisms of why SMEs are committed to SS within communities is an important research topic. Purpose: The purpose of this study is to investigate how SMEs facilitate the ability of communities to develop socially sustainable practices that not only satisfy the requirements of current members but also support the ability of future generations to maintain sustainable communities. Method: Due to the limited literature in social sustainability in the context of SMEs embedded in diverse communities, this thesis employs an exploratory research design together with qualitative and abductive approaches. Qualitative content analysis is used in coding and analysing the empirical findings, and the abductive approach is used in developing an extended framework of social sustainability. Conclusion: The aim of this study was to gain insight into the initiatives implemented by SMEs towards socially sustainable communities and the obstacles they face. Through qualitative research in different sectors of the economy (agriculture, construction, service, retail, manufacturing) and different countries, an empirical understanding of how SMEs engage in social sustainability initiatives was derived. The empirical findings resulted in the extension of a social sustainability framework proposed by Eizenberg and Jabareen (2017). In the extended framework, community social capital was added as the fifth concept of SS and its main components include human capital, social capital, social cohesion, social inclusion, natural capital and philanthropic capital. The variety of sectors and countries enabled us to take into account contextual differences and develop an international view of social sustainability concepts relevant for communities.
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