Sustainability of Small Businesses in Regional Australia through Social Responsibility: Collaboration Between Higher Education and the Economic Development Board
Small business enterprises hold a central position in the Australian economy and society. Small business is more important than ever, with small business driving innovation, exports and jobs growth. Small businesses therefore have a responsibility to embrace the principles of sustainability and contribute to meeting the needs of current and future generations. The modern concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) involves the performance of companies in financial, social and environmental terms and includes the impact of business activities on suppliers, customers, employees, local community and the environment. To be sustainable, i.e. more efficient and profitable in the long run, small businesses should operate in socially and environmentally responsible ways and aspire to maximise stakeholder value by focusing on the “triple bottom line (also referred to as “Economic, Environmental & Social” or “Economy, Ecology & Equity” or “People, Planet & Profits). There is an urgent need for awareness and education of small businesses about the issue of CSR, especially in regional areas such as Whyalla in South Australia, an industrial area and a hub of small business activity. The purpose of the Whyalla Economic Development Board (WEDB) is, amongst others, “to promote the practical involvement of industrial and commercial companies in the development and general well-being of the community” and “to support the development and implementation of programs and projects that facilitate employment, economic and community development for Whyalla”. This joint research project between the local campus of the University of South Australia and the Whyalla Economic Development Board, investigates the awareness and social responsibility activities of small businesses in Whyalla and the challenges/opportunities they face in implementing such initiatives. The findings of the research will be used as a basis for developing the social and environmental responsibility of both business and society in the Whyalla region and will enable the university to assist the WEDB to play an active role in developing sustainable, socially responsible small businesses in the region.
Keywords: Sustainability, Small Businesses, Social and Environmental Responsibility, Higher Education, Economic Development Board
Dr. Nina Evans
Senior lecturer, Business and Regional Enterprise Unit
Dr. Janet Sawyer
Head, Business and Regional Enterprise Unit, Business and Regional Enterprise Unit