Sustainable Business at Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) : The Case of Coffee Queen AB

University essay from Karlstads universitet/Centrum för tjänsteforskning; Karlstads universitet/Centrum för tjänsteforskning


Society demands more and more that corporations take over responsibility on the effects of their business actions in a stakeholder view. Corporate Social Responsibility and Corporate Governance are catchwords in this context that stand for a management view there one focuses on more than profits and quality. In corporate responsibility management one takes a stakeholder view and integrates also issues such as supplier relations, supply chain management, environmental practices and sustainability as well as labor standards and human rights into the management view. The integration and balance between economic, environmental and social issues going above legal requirements is called triple bottom line thinking.

Today, corporate responsibility is no more only an issue for large international corporations but also for SMEs with limited resources and less market power. The purpose of this thesis is to describe and understand how a sustainable business approach can develop and be maintained in SMEs. By examining the case Coffee Queen, we want to find out about driving forces for development of corporate responsibility.

To receive nuanced information and deeper insight into the corporate responsibility of a company, a single case study with a qualitative research approach was chosen. The empirical material for this case was collected during a visit of Coffee Queens’ plant in Arvika and three open personal interviews.

Based on a literature review and narratives from the empirical material it was found that driving forces for the development towards sustainable business are strongly related to leadership by values. The engagement of one or more organization members that are supported by the top management and a values base that gives a framework for corporate behavior and supports the reputation of the company were found to be important variables to reach an ISO 14000 certification for Coffee Queen. From the management side, the corporate responsibility can be seen as a market requirement and used as a marketing tool for competitive advantage. A strategic approach to corporate responsibility was appeared to be helpful as it increases the accountability of positions, and demanded in SMEs.

Total quality management according to ISO 9000 and 14000 was in this context found as additional driver for sustainable development. On a basis of continuous improvement companies have to forward their positions step-by-step towards an integrated sustainability approach. This idea of corporate responsibility development is demonstrated by a model showing the steps towards an integrated triple bottom line.

With these findings, this study provides insight into corporate responsibility in a SME and links values-based management and quality management to the process of developing a sustainable business approach.

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