International Journal of Business and Social Science

ISSN 2219-1933 (Print), 2219-6021 (Online) DOI: 10.30845/ijbss

Corporate Social Responsibility, Entrepreneurial Values and Transcendental Virtues in Italian SMEs
Mara Del Baldo

The work focuses on the ethical foundation of entrepreneurial behavior which is at the base of CSR-oriented strategies and actions, particularly in small and medium-sized enterprises. At present the relationship between CSR-oriented SMEs and virtues has not been adequately investigated. In particular, past studies have not expressively analyzed entrepreneurial virtues intended in a transcendental perspective, and there is not yet a specific body of research and empirical studies that focus on transcendental virtues in SMEs. Does an adhesion to the philosophy and to the practices of CSR arise from transcendental virtues? How are entrepreneurial values influenced by (and derived from) transcendental virtues? The paper winds itself around these questions and describes, after presenting the literature review focused on entrepreneurs, SMEs and ethics and on entrepreneurial leadership - with particular emphasis on values and (transcendental) virtues - the principle findings that have emerged from a qualitative investigation based on a case-study relative to an Italian SMEs, in which the entrepreneur’s objectives complies with both economic and social issues and are inspired by virtues: practical wisdom (Prudence); justice (Friendship); courage (Fortitude); moderation (Temperance). These virtues are at the foundation of an anthropological-based business culture which fosters and reinforces CSR-strategies and actions rendering them authentic and are strictly connected to transcendental virtues. The paper is divided into two main parts. The first presents the theoretical framework, while the second describes the main results that have emerged from the empirical analysis aimed at understanding which ethical values and virtues that entrepreneur possesses allow him to orient business action toward CSR-oriented strategies and how they translate them into practice. The reflections emerged from the analysis point out the relevance of values and virtues in the entrepreneurial and business context and help formulate the proposition that transcendental virtues are the “hidden” driving force that lies at the base of CSR and sustainable orientation, particularly in SMEs, due to the relevance attributed to people and relationships. The value of the work is firstly attributable to the attention paid to transcendental virtues and values and their connection to personal, familial and territorial shared values (of ethical, cultural, anthropological nature) typical of SMEs. Secondly, its originality is attributable to the meeting point of the perspective of CSR-oriented strategies in SMEs, ethics and leadership studies. The work has also practical implications. Firstly, suggestions for SME’s leaders derive from the relevance attributed to values and virtues in balancing the many activities and stakeholders interests with which entrepreneurs are charged daily. Secondly, some implication for regional policies aimed to promote CSR and sustainability in local contexts can be derived, since this work aims to reevaluate the proactive role of virtuous SMEs in developing their socio-economic environment. Finally, the work underlines the need for developing a methodology that allows further empirical research on the relationship between ethical values, humanistic education, family and social structures and the development of a sustainable entrepreneurial spirit and leadership.A possible methodology could be represented by the case-study approach applied to best practices with the scope of valorizing the virtuous behaviors of entrepreneurs and SMEs that lie at the base of so many local experiences – that often go unnoticed – and of favoring the dialogue among researchers businesses, public officials and civil society. Despite providing some additional contributions to the afore-mentioned lines of study, this study has a number of limitations (some of which could be overcome at later stages of the research). Firstly, we mention that the limitations are mainly related to the fact that the empirical study is qualitative in nature and based on the analysis of an exemplary, single case-study. Thus, the results cannot be generalized and more research is needed in the future. Possible research developments could derive from the analysis of multiple case-studies, both relative to SMEs and larger companies. Moreover, the qualitative study could then be accompanied both

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