Small Business and Social Irresponsibility in Developing Countries: Working Conditions and “Evasion” Institutional Work

Vivek Soundararajan, Laura Spence, Christopher Rees

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Small businesses in developing countries, as part of global supply chains, are sometimes assumed to respond in a straightforward manner to institutional demands for improved working conditions. This article problematizes this perspective. Drawing upon extensive qualitative data from Tirupur’s knitwear export industry in India, we highlight owner-managers’ agency in avoiding or circumventing these demands. The small businesses here actively engage in irresponsible business practices and “evasion” institutional work to disrupt institutional demands in three ways: undermining assumptions and values, dissociating consequences, and accumulating autonomy and political strength. This “evasion” work is supported by three conditions: void (in labor welfare mechanisms), distance (from institutional monitors), and contradictions (between value systems). Through detailed empirical findings, the article contributes to research on both small business social responsibility and institutional work.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1301-1336
Number of pages36
JournalBusiness and Society
Issue number7
Early online date19 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2018

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