Purpose Drawing on the ?ISO 26000: 2010 ? Guidance on social responsibility? handbook, this paper aims to investigate the extent to which Bangladeshi small- and medium-sized manufacturing enterprises (SMEs) are incorporating social responsibility (SR)/sustainability into their regular business activities. It is also aimed at providing insights into how Bangladeshi SME owner-managers perceive the concept of SR, and exploring the key drivers of and barriers to socially responsible and sustainable business practices. Design/methodology/approach A mixed-method research was carried out in two sequential phases. During the first phase, 110 printed questionnaires (59 of which were eventually used) were distributed among the owner-managers of the selected SMEs. The second phase involved seven in-depth semi-structured interviews. Findings The findings reconfirm the existence of the so called ?attitude-behaviour? gap. The barriers that hinder the sustainable engagement of SMEs include corruption, a weak regulatory environment, inefficient or ill-suited government and external support and a lack of awareness of the environmental aspects of SR. In addition, this research reveals that Bangladeshi manufacturing SMEs do, to a certain degree, implement SR; only those few issues that suit the owner-managers? personal motives are addressed, while many others (e.g. environmental issues) are neglected. Finally, it has been found that the business type and size, and the owner-managers? educational attainments have no significant influence on the degree of adoption of socially responsible business practices by Bangladeshi manufacturing SMEs. Originality/value This paper develops a tool suited to meaningfully assess the socially responsible and sustainable business activities of SMEs. By using the four key elements identified in ISO 26000, namely, labour practices, the environment, consumer issues and community involvement and development, and by using an innovative and effective technique, a sustainability score and implementation level were calculated quantitatively for the selected SMEs. The tool developed here can be used to study the sustainability related issues faced by SMEs based in other low-income developing countries.
- Developing countries
- ISO 26000
- Manufacturing SMEs
- Small business sustainability
- Social responsibility