Small business social responsibility: A critical multi-level review, synthesis and research agenda

Vivek Soundararajan, Dima Jamali, Laura Spence

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Citations (SciVal)


Small‐business social responsibility (SBSR) related research is rapidly increasing in quantity, but is found in divergent literatures and disciplines. It is time to offer a comprehensive review that identifies, synthesizes and integrates previous research, and highlights the knowledge gaps and the way forward. This methodical search of the literature helped to identify 115 multidisciplinary peer‐reviewed academic articles appearing in high‐quality journals over the 1970–2016 period. Using a systematic and in‐depth content analysis technique, the authors reviewed the articles and identified the theories used, the national contextual focus and the methodological orientations in these articles. They also identified the predictors, outcomes, mediators and moderators of SBSR at the institutional, organizational and individual levels of analysis. This review helps to identify significant knowledge gaps in terms of the theoretical orientation, the national contextual focus, the core content under study, and the methods used. The authors offer numerous suggestions across these topics to help address the knowledge gaps and raise important questions for future research. The primary contributions of this paper are: delineating and summarizing a multilevel analysis of an emerging literature on SBSR; integrating contributions from a wide range of management disciplines and geographical contexts; extracting the potential theoretical contributions in this field; and informing directions for future research. The authors propose a research agenda that is theoretically relevant and innovative, and call for context‐ and size‐aware research on SBSR, using small‐business‐specific methodologies and measurements.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)934-956
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Journal of Management Reviews
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018


  • small business
  • CSR
  • review
  • multi-level analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management


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