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In 2001, the European Commission’s Green Paper emphasised the need to promote a European framework for corporate social responsibility (CSR). In this text, the Commission called for CSR to be more widely applied in SMEs, including micro-businesses, as they play a major role in developing the economy and job creation (Courrent, 2012). The increased appeal of this path was due to the rise of a major stream of research on CSR (Bakker, 2007; Carroll & Shabana, 2010) and the emergence of the concept of sustainable development in the 1990s (Gladwyn et al., 1995). Throughout that period, both practitioners and academic researchers sought to understand and analyse the concept of corporate social responsibility. Authors like Bowen (1953), Carroll (1979) and Freeman (1984) were the precursors for this interest. The phenomenon gained importance over time and now plays a crucial role in corporate strategy (Capron & Quairel-Lanoizelée, 2007; Camacho & Fernandez, 2018; Lapointe & Gendron, 2005).
Various definitions of CSR were proposed in turn, with the central idea that this notion relates to the obligations of a company towards society, or more specifically towards its stakeholders, i.e. those affected by its policies and practices (Freeman, 1984). Here we will use the definition proposed by the European Commission (2011, p. 8): “the responsibility of enterprises for their impact on society”. However, the view that CSR is based on the construction of meaning leads to a definition in terms of the organizational process of sensemaking…


The literature on CSR in SMEs has expanded in recent years, emphasising the profile of the business owner and the SME itself as a structure. However, little attention has been paid to entrepreneurs during the creation phase of their company and the structures set up to support them. Many questions remain unanswered about CSR training for entrepreneurs and therefore about the role of entrepreneurship support structures. The aim of this study is to understand the process of CSR awareness-raising for entrepreneurs in these structures via sensemaking. A conceptual analysis of the notion of sensemaking and an exploratory study involving 20 participants (10 support structures and 10 entrepreneurs) are used to show that these actors have a CSR sensemaking mechanism based on their social concerns. They also highlight that the awareness-raising process for entrepreneurs involving such structures is based on a formal and dissociated vision of CSR.

  • CSR
  • sensemaking
  • awareness-raising
  • support structures
  • entrepreneurs

La sensibilisation des entrepreneurs à la RSE par les structures d’accompagnement au travers de la création de sens

Les travaux sur la RSE en PME se sont multipliés ces dernières années, mettant l’accent sur le profil des dirigeants et sur la PME en tant que structure. Cependant, ces travaux se sont peu intéressés aux entrepreneurs en phase de création d’entreprise et aux structures qui les accompagnent. De nombreuses interrogations persistent sur la formation des entrepreneurs à la RSE et donc sur le rôle des structures d’accompagnement à l’entrepreneuriat. Ainsi, cette étude a pour objectif de comprendre la démarche de sensibilisation RSE des entrepreneurs par les structures d’accompagnement, à travers les contours de la création de sens (sensemaking). Une analyse conceptuelle sur la notion de sensemaking et une étude exploratoire menée auprès de 20 acteurs (10 structures d’accompagnement et 10 entrepreneurs) ont permis de montrer que les acteurs ont un mécanisme de création de sens RSE basé sur les préoccupations sociales. Elles ont mis en évidence, également, que la démarche de sensibilisation des entrepreneurs par les structures s’inscrit dans une vision formelle et dissociée de la RSE.

  • RSE
  • sensemaking
  • sensibilisation
  • structures d’accompagnement
  • entrepreneurs
Rosalie Douyon
Rosalie DOUYON holds a doctorate in Management science and is an associate Professor at EDC Paris Business School. She works as a researcher at the Observatory and Research Center on Entrepreneurship, part of EDC Paris Business School and is an associate researcher at the Montpellier Research in Management laboratory and Labex Entreprendre, part of Université de Montpellier. Her teaching and research relate to entrepreneurship, corporate social responsibility and corporate strategy. She regularly anticipates in academic conferences nationally and internationally as well as corporate seminars addressing questions of entrepreneurship and CSR.
Agnès Paradas
Agnès PARADAS is a lecturer and research supervisor in Management science at Université d’Avignon. She works as a researcher at the MRL laboratory at Université de Montpellier and leads a LabEx Entreprendre project on “Responsible commitments of small business owners”. She specialises in SMEs, and her research topics mainly cover corporate social responsibility and sustainable development, as well as skills management and small businesses. She has a particular interest in the commitment, values and representations of business owners, female entrepreneurship, diversity and gender equality. She has published many articles and chapters in edited publications.
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Uploaded on on 28/12/2021
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