Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a concept founded on the belief that businesses
should voluntarily consider and support their stakeholders including employees, customers,
suppliers and the community. This may be through, for example, providing a flexible work
atmosphere, supporting education or making donations. CSR has become increasingly
important in business communities over the last 60 years, as awareness of the benefits that
CSR can provide for stakeholders and businesses is increasing.
Small to medium enterprises (SMEs) are businesses with less than 199 employees, and they
are believed to struggle with CSR engagement more so than larger businesses. This thesis
seeks to understand the CSR engagement of small and medium tourism enterprises (SMTEs).
CSR is important in the tourism industry, as tourism has the potential to have negative
impacts on societies, and CSR may be able to counteract these negative influences. In
addition to this, the tourism industry is abundant in SMEs. It is important that the difficulties
that SMTEs face in engaging in CSR are overcome in order for CSR in the tourism industry to
To explore CSR engagement in SMTEs, four research objectives are addressed in this thesis: 1)
understand the characteristics of SMTEs; 2) identify current CSR practices engaged in by
SMTEs; 3) investigate the factors that affect CSR engagement in SMTEs; and 4) identify the
implications for increasing CSR engagement in SMTEs.
An explanatory mixed methods approach, known as the ‘follow-up explanations model’ was
used in this study, consisting of an online survey, focus groups and interviews. Owners and
managers of SMTEs in the Greater Blue Mountains Area of Australia were the targeted
research participants. One-hundred survey responses were collected and two focus groups
and three interviews were conducted. The purpose of the survey was to gather data on the
characteristics of SMTEs, their attitudes to CSR and the CSR practices they engage in. The
focus groups and interviews were used to further understand the survey findings and to
identify implications for increasing CSR engagement.
The results suggest that whether an SMTE is owner-managed or not has the largest influence
on its CSR engagement including: attitudes to CSR; motivations and benefits from engaging in
CSR; types of CSR practices; and methods for increasing CSR engagement in the future. There were several significant findings from this research. First, owner-managed SMTEs
engage in CSR for personal reasons and they gain personal benefits from doing so, whereas
non owner-managed SMTEs engage in CSR to realise potential business benefits. Second,
owner-managed SMTEs are not as constrained as non owner-managed SMTEs by a lack of
resources in regards to engaging in CSR. This is because owner-managed SMTEs are spending
their own money on CSR and they do not see it as an additional cost because they engage in
CSR as a result of their personal values, so it is simply how they do things. In comparison, non
owner-managed SMTEs have to justify spending the business’s money on CSR, by proving
that the benefits of engaging in CSR outweigh the costs. Third, there is a difference in
perceptions as to the value of guidelines and tools for increasing a business’s CSR
engagement. Owner-managed SMTEs do not see value in guidelines and tools for increasing
engagement in CSR, rather they believe that increased awareness about CSR is the best way
to increase CSR engagement. In contrast, non owner-managed SMTEs believe that
guidelines, tools and evidence of the benefits of CSR may help to increase CSR engagement.
Finally, a model that explains SMTE engagement in CSR is presented.