Corporate social responsibility practices developed by Mexican family and non-family businesses

The globalization of markets and most of all the development of countries with an emergent economy such as Mexico has generated a great interest in the business and political environment and in the population at large, about the performance of enterprises with respect to CSR in its different dimensions. CSR has been studies mainly in large enterprises (Dyer and Whetten, 2006), and to a lesser extend in micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises.

Family businesses show certain divergences in their performance around the world, mainly due to the interaction of the family in aspects such as business ownership and management (Jorissen et al., 2005Chrisman et al., 2005, 2013Fitzgerald et al., 2010Esparza-Aguilar et al., 2016). These internal as well as external characteristics have an influence on the way, these businesses deal with the development of CSR’s practices. It is important to study these behaviors, since there are a still limited number of studies on CSR in family businesses (Fitzgerald et al., 2010Burton and Goldsby, 2009).

CSR according to the Mexican Center for Philanthropy is defined as “the conscious and congruent commitment of comprehensively fulfilling the objective of the business, internally as well as externally, considering the economic, social and environmental expectations of all its participants, demonstrating respect for people, for ethical values, the community and the environment, contributing thus to the construction of the common good” (Cajiga, 2013, p. 4). Based on the previous definition, this research is grounded on the stakeholder theory that establishes that the business is formed by various agents and is therefore responsible to a great variety of stakeholders or interest groups (Freeman, 1997).

The importance of conducting this research is to be able to contrasts results with those obtained by previous studies in diverse contexts and also because of the relevance that these businesses have due to their contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP) and employment generation in the region and the country (Chrisman et al., 2013Belausteguigoitia, 2012).

According to this, the following research questions were posed: RQ1.

Are there significant differences in the development of CSR practices between family and non-family Mexican businesses?


Are there characteristics of the manager/owner and of the family businesses that influence a higher development of CSR practices?

The main objective of the present study is to identify the practices of CSR developed by family and non-family MSMEs in the south of the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico, considering factors such as years of experience, university education, manager/owner’s gender as well as the size of the business. The document has been organized the following way: first, the theoretical review and previous empirical studies are presented. Second, the research methodology is described as well as the sample and the variables. In a third place, the analysis of results is presented and finally, the main conclusions of the study including limitations, implications for future research projects.

It is with growing enthusiasm that manager/owners of MSMEs are concerned about environmental, economic and social aspects as relevant factors that influence their development as well as that of diverse interest groups. There are different studies about this subject, applied mainly to large businesses and in lesser extend related to MSMEs, and even less in studies on family businesses (Fitzgerald et al., 2010).

With respect to the definition of CSR, Dahlsrud (2008) found 37 original definitions between 1980 and 2003. His analysis allows the identification of five recurrent dimensions: stakeholder, social, economic, voluntary work and environment.

Based on the previous and trying to understand the existing relationship between the different agents involved in the family business, the stakeholder’s theory offers the satisfactory framework for this research. These interest groups or stakeholders are defined as any group or individual that might get affected by the fulfillment of the business’ objectives (Freeman, 1984, 1997). In the family business, the main interest group is the family or the family group itself.

Family business and CSRFamily businesses show different characteristics in their behavior, depending basically on the way the family members interact in relation to aspects such as the business itself, ownership and management (Jorissen et al., 2005Chrisman et al., 2005, 2013Fitzgerald et al., 2010Esparza-Aguilar et al., 2016). These characteristics define the way that the business relates to CSR practices (Graafland, 2002Uhlaner et al., 2004Jo and Harjoto, 2011Bingham et al., 2011Cabeza García et al., 2014).

These behaviors were shown in Dyer and Whetten’s (2006) study, where they analyzed 261 businesses (202 non-family and 59 family businesses) that appear in the S&P 500 and compared the degree in which family and non-family businesses acted with respect to social responsibility. The results showed that the first are more socially responsible than the latter. In their study, Cabeza García et al. (2014) pointed out that for family business owners it is essential to maintain the socio-emotional character of the business, which makes them more likely to fulfill their social commitment.

In Mexico, López-Torres et al. (2015) used a sample of 297 family MSMEs in the state of Aguascalientes, applying the structural equation model in their research. Their results showed that family businesses conduct more CSR actions in the social, environmental and economic dimensions.

In other contexts, Uhlaner et al. (2004) studied 42 family MSMEs in Holland and found that the family character favors the establishment of a special relationship with the workers as well as with customers and suppliers. Graafland (2002) also showed wider interest in CSR by family businesses in Holland. Similar results were obtained in Spain by Martín and Aroca (2016) in a study with a sample of 123 MSMEs. In the USA, Jo and Harjoto (2011) showed a positive relationship between family businesses and CSR practices.

Studying businesses in five European countries, Lopez-Iturriaga et al. (2009) concluded that businesses of family ownership are more likely to adopt CSR than others with different kinds of ownership. This is confirmed by Campopiano et al. (2012), who pointed out that CSR actions in family businesses are favored by long-term planning due to the interest in preserving the business for future generations.

Based on this literature review, which defines different attitudes toward CSR practices by family businesses (Godfrey, 2005Bingham et al., 2011López-Torres et al., 2015), the following hypothesis is established:


H1.The practices of CSR in their different dimensions, environmental, employees, society and customers are developed to a higher degree in family businesses than in non-family businesses.

Characteristics of the manager/owner and CSRYears of experience related to age and university education of the manager/owner are important factors that affect the development of CSR practices. These factors have been analyzed by Dawson et al. (2002) in the case of managers/owners of Australian MSMEs, where they proved that according to the experience and level of education, major importance was given to ethical behavior in everyday activities.

Besser (1998) and Fitzgerald et al. (2010) demonstrated how in the case of small family businesses, owners with positive attitude with respect to the local context are prone to occupy leadership positions and participate in philanthropic projects. These authors proposed that individuals with higher education levels are interested in participating as leaders in organizations of local and social character, in those situations where the business is vulnerable to economic effects. Similarly, Herrera et al. (2014) in a study of 509 Spanish MSMEs (329 family and 180 non-family) found evidence that the university education of the manager/owner is one of the characteristics that is closely related to the development of CSR practices.

Based on the previous evidence related to age, experience and university education of the manager/owner (Martín and Aroca, 2016), the following hypotheses are established:


H2.CSR practices in family businesses are better developed when the manager/owner has a longer experience in the business.H3.

CSR practices in family businesses are better developed when the manager/owner has a greater university education.

The role of the women manager/owner and CSRRegarding the role that women owners have in the family business, it is very different from that of men because women are better at perceiving their management skills, they are good at communication and ease for interpersonal relationships and teamwork (Brush and Hisrich, 2000Helgesen, 1990). In this sense, women see the operation of the business and the business itself as a cooperative network of relationships instead of a simple profit center (Brush, 1992). This would explain why they are more open to sharing, less distrustful, more conciliatory, less directive, more attentive and less competitive in their business relationships (Folker, 1999). In addition, due to the traditional role they play in society, women entrepreneurs must devote themselves to two areas in their lives: family and business (Cadieux et al., 2002). Based on the foregoing with respect to the issue of gender in CSR studies, evidence shows different behaviors in business management since women have acquired a larger participation in higher management positions; women who manage these businesses are much more proactive toward the development of CSR practices (Hazlina and Seet, 2010).

Other authors pointed out the main professional and educational differences that women face due to the fact that they promote better decision making (Bear et al., 2010). This can be confirmed based on Soares et al. (2011) and Williams (2003), who found a correlation between the presence of women in higher management and the CSR activities that the business commits to.

Ibrahim and Angelidis (1994) pointed out that women center their approach on the aspects of social responsibility more so than men since they are attributed a more interactive leadership, oriented to stimulating participation and self-esteem of others, higher philanthropically instincts and a higher social sensitivity with a vision that is closer to the dimensions of CSR (Hazlina and Seet, 2010Vázquez Carrasco and López Pérez, 2010). Bernardi and Threadgill (2010) found that women have a higher presence in CSR practices, mainly in the dimensions of employees, society and philanthropy.

Based upon the previous argument, the following hypothesis is presented:


H4.CSR practices in family businesses are better developed when the manager/owner is a woman.

The size of the business and CSRThe size of the business has played a fundamental role in the development of family businesses and is therefore also a factor that influences the development of CSR practices (Güler et al., 2010). This is confirmed by Niehm et al.(2008) in a study of 221 family businesses in the USA. They conducted a descriptive analysis with four demographic characteristics of small family businesses: age and academic level of the manager, place of residence, size of the business and business sector. Their results showed that only the business size and the business sector showed a significant relation with CSR, specifically in the community support dimension.

Amann et al. (2012), working with a sample of 86 family and 114 non-family businesses in Japan, found that size is a factor that significantly influences CSR practices in family businesses. Similarly, Graafland (2002) concluded that Dutch family businesses, mainly those of larger size, show a mayor interest in CSR than non-family businesses.

Based on the previous literature review, where the size of the businesses has been analyzed as a factor that explains the practices developed by these businesses (Russo and Tencati, 2009Preuss and Perschke, 2010Herrera et al., 2014), the following hypothesis can be presented:


H5.CSR practices in family businesses are better developed when the size of the business is larger.

Data collection and sampleData on MSMEs in the state of Quintana Roo (Mexico) have been taken from the 2014 Economic Census of the National Institute for Statistics and Geography (INEGI, 2016). According to this information, there are 45,080 economic units that are shown in Table I.

To develop this exploratory and descriptive type of research, a cross-section analysis with a sample of 384 businesses was made. The characteristics of the businesses considered in the study were mainly micro businesses (up to 10 employees), small businesses (between 11 and 50 employees) and medium-sized businesses (between 51 and 100 employees), based on the business stratification criteria2 established by the Federal Government of Mexico (DOF, 2009).

The design of the sample was based on the principles of simple random in finite populations. A level of statistical significance of 95 percent and the maximum acceptable sampling error of 4.9 percent were assumed; the sample size required to infer the behavior of the total number of MSMEs was established at 384. This sample was distributed in 245 family and 139 non-family businesses as shown in Table II.

According to Hernández et al. (2006), the chosen method was a survey and the measuring instrument was a questionnaire applied directly to the managers and/or owners or the businesses. The questionnaire allowed obtaining study characteristic in a simple and direct manner (Sabino, 1984), it is flexible, easy and quick to apply and process (Mathers et al., 1998).

The questionnaire was designed following a review of previous empirical studies trying to incorporate the variables defined to obtain the established objectives. Once the questionnaire was designed, a pilot trial was conducted amongst faculty members versed in the subject of study. As a second step, with the intention of adjusting the questionnaire to the business reality, a trial was made with 20 MSMEs. After these tests, the modifications were made with the intention of correcting and clarifying the posted questions. The validity and reliability of the questionnaire scales were verified through the validity of contents, construct and criteria, as well as the internal consistency of the items with the Cronbach’s (1951)α coefficient.

Data on the businesses were obtained from the National Statistical Directory of Economic Units (Directorio Estadístico Nacional de Unidades Económicas). The requests to contact the interviewees were made by telephone and through e-mail, establishing a total of 420 appointments. In total, 384 valid interviews were conducted, which means a response rate of 91.4 percent. Field work was conducted in the south of the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico, in the municipalities of Othón P. Blanco, Bacalar, José María Morelos and Felipe Carrillo Puerto, between February and June 2017.

Statistical processing of the data was conducted using SPSS. The methodology consisted of the analysis of descriptive statistics in terms of the sub-samples of the differences between family and non-family businesses, sub-samples of CSR, univariate analysis through a one-way ANOVA test, factorial analysis and reliability analysis of the scales referred to the dimensions of CSR.

Variables and measures

Dependent variables

Family business

There are various empirical studies around the world that establish generic definitions of the concept of family business, in which the property and control of the business rest on the family structure and where the majority of the directive or management positions are occupied by family members (Sharma et al., 1997Cromie et al., 2001Chua et al., 2003, 2004Villalonga and Amit, 2006Miller et al., 2007Esparza-Aguilar et al., 2016). For this study, a binary variable with a 1 value for family businesses and 0 value otherwise was established.

Corporate social responsibilityThis variable has been measured taking into account previous works by Larrán et al. (2011) and validated later by Lechuga (2012), in which they established a scale to measure the level of development of CSR practices in MSMEs which is composed of four dimensions and 24 items: environment (nine items), employees (six items), society (five items) and customers (four items); this measurement structure has been used in different studies (Herrera, Larrán, Lechuga and Martínez-Martínez, 2016Herrera, Larrán, Martínez and Martínez-Martínez, 2016). To measure the level of development of these four dimensions of CSR by businesses during the two previous years, a five-point Likert scale was used (1=low and 5=high). The variable that represents each dimension is based on the arithmetic mean of the four items, resulting in a 1–5 theoretical range. Additionally, a binary variable has been used with the value of 1 for family businesses that developed more CSR practices and 0 if it is not the case.

To validate these measurements, the scale reliability was verified through the Cronbach’s (1951)α coefficient, and was checked using a factorial analysis that allowed proving that the previous indicators can be synthetized in one single factor, which adequately reflects the level of compliance to these practices. In Table III, the used items are shown, as well as the statistical tests used to validate these scales.

Independent variables


This variable represents the experience in the numbers of years of the manager/owner of the business.


This variable is measured through a binary variable that assigns a value of 1 when the manager/owner is a woman and otherwise a value of 2. This variable has been measured in similar studies (Herrera et al., 2014Martín and Aroca, 2016).

University education

This variable has been measured considering the level of education that the manager/owner has acquired at the date of this study (Barth et al., 2005Herrera et al., 2014Martín and Aroca, 2016Esparza-Aguilar et al., 2016).


This variable represents the natural logarithm of the number of business employees during the study period. The number of employees has been used widely as a measurement of size in studies such as those of Westhead and Cowling (1997)Anderson and Reeb (2003) and Esparza-Aguilar et al. (2016).


For the analysis of data and the attainment of results, this study was based on the proceedings of univariate descriptive statistics. The ANOVA test was used with the intention of examining the differences between the variables considered in the study (Hair et al., 2005).

The descriptive statistics and the ANOVA test used in this study to verify H1: the practices of CSR in their different dimensions, environmental, employees, society and customers are developed to a higher degree in family businesses than in non-family businesses as shown in Tables IV–VII. In Table IV, the environmental dimension of CSR, both in family and non-family businesses, can be observed. Results show that for every item, the development of CSR practices is greater in family businesses. The most developed practice where significant results were obtained in this dimension is the reusing and recycling of materials (3.06). Other significant practices are investments to save energy (3.04), the reduction of environmental impact in their activities (2.94), the voluntary compliance to legal environmental regulations (2.67) and the periodic environmental audits (2.25). These results are consistent with those found by Dyer and Whetten (2006)Godfrey (2005)Bingham et al. (2011) and López-Torres et al. (2015).

A shown in Table V, the CSR variable related to stable employment for their employees and society is considered very important (3.67) but is not significant enough. The practice related to the consideration of employees’ interests in decision making shows significant results (3.10). Family is an important factor in this kind of businesses, since it contributes to a healthy relation with their employees concerning itself with their development. These results confirm those found by Uhlaner et al. (2004) and Graafland (2002).

In Table VI, the results obtained on the societal dimension are shown. The practices that showed significant results and that are developed to a greater extend by family businesses are: incorporation of community interests in business decisions (2.09), support for sport and cultural activities in the community (2.64) and maintaining clear relations with local politicians (2.96). These characteristics show them more committed to the local environment and with a closer relationship with their authorities, a factor that grants them certainty and the opportunity of conserving their position in their respective markets. This is consistent with results found by Niehm et al. (2008)Cabeza García et al. (2014) and López-Torres et al. (2015).

As shown in Table VII, due to the systemic composition of family businesses where family, ownership and management interact, there is a greater concern to develop commitment with quality and fair prizes (4.2). This factor is important because of the concern of the family related to the business for future generations. Quality and fair prizes are factors that enable their competitive presence in the market.

With the obtained results that are shown in the above tables, H1 can be verified.

As shown in Table VIII, only family businesses (n=245) have been considered in this analysis to be able to contrast the results with literature on family MSMEs. When the number of years of experience of the manager/owner is considered (H2), it has been observed that the greater experience is found in those businesses that develop greater CSR practices (16.06). In general, the obtained results corroborate those found in other studies where family business is considered in terms of experience (Dawson et al., 2002). Therefore, H2 has been verified.

Regarding university education (H3), as can be seen in Table VIII, managers/owners who have a higher level of university education are those who develop more CSR practices (4.29). This could be corroborated based on the research of several authors who affirm that the level of university education is determinant for the development of CSR practices (Besser, 1998Fitzgerald et al., 2010Herrera et al., 2014Martín and Aroca, 2016). In this sense, H3 can be tested.

H4 related to CSR practices that are developed to a greater extent in family businesses when the manager/owner is female could not be corroborated. Nevertheless, women incorporated in management compete professionally with men due to their better decision making (Hazlina and Seet, 2010Bear et al., 2010). In this sense, H4 could not be verified.

Finally, a larger size of the family business (H5) measured through the logarithm of the number of employees has a positive influence on the greater development of CSR practices (1.2494). These results are consistent with several studies (Russo and Tencati, 2009Preuss and Perschke, 2010Herrera et al., 2014); therefore, H5 has been tested.

Since family businesses are very important for the development of regions and countries due to their high contributions to the GDP and the generation of employment, there is a growing interest in knowing their behavior with respect to CSR practices. In accordance with this, in the present study, the hypothesis related to CSR practices as developed by family and non-family MSMEs in the south of the stat of Quintana Roo, Mexico has been contrasted. The obtained results are consistent with other studies and show that CSR practices are developed to a greater extent by family businesses than those that are not family owned (Graafland, 2002Uhlaner et al., 2004Jo and Harjoto, 2011Bingham et al., 2011Cabeza García et al., 2014). Specifically, in the environmental (Dyer and Whetten, 2006Godfrey, 2005Bingham et al., 2011López-Torres et al., 2015) and societal dimensions (Niehm et al., 2008Cabeza García et al., 2014López-Torres et al., 2015), where results were more significant.

This can be explained considering that when there is a clear commitment and dedication of the family or family group, there will continue to be a greater development of CSR practices. On the other hand, if the business does not behave responsible with the environment, employees, society and customers, it will not be able to satisfy the interest of the members of the family and of other interest groups.

Results were contrasted with respect to the years of experience, the level of university education, the gender of the manager/owner as well of the size of the business. Results were consistent with other studies where a greater development of CSR practices in family business is possible when there is a larger experience in the business (Dawson et al., 2002), when there is a higher university education of the managers/owners (Besser, 1998Fitzgerald et al., 2010Herrera et al., 2014Martín and Aroca, 2016) and when the size of the business is larger (Russo and Tencati, 2009Preuss and Perschke, 2010Herrera et al., 2014). This indicates that family businesses need to have professional trained personnel with business experience, so that CSR can be developed more efficiently.

No significant results related to the development of CSR practices when a woman runs the family business were found; however, it is observed that women have a greater socially responsible behavior due to their dual role within the family and their participation in the business (Ibrahim and Angelidis, 1994Hazlina and Seet, 2010Cadieux et al., 2002).

Within the limitation of this research, the following can be mentioned. The study was developed exclusively with a MSMEs sample with a scope only on the southern part of Quintana Roo, Mexico; the shortage of business databases and the stratification of businesses based exclusively on the number of employees. It would be interesting as a future line of research to consider a larger sampling size and to increase the analysis to other areas of the state and the country as well as the use of other techniques of multivariable statistics. In addition, it would be interesting to consider other variables that influence the behavior toward the development of other CSR practices in these businesses as proven by the cited literature.

Finally, this work presents information that contributes to the state of the art, broadening the existing literature related to CSR in businesses of a country with an emergent economy and an environment where the tourism and commercial sectors predominate.

The highlight of the study in relation to the established theoretical assumptions and previous literature is the strong influence of the family on CSR practices related to the environmental dimension. This relationship can be explained considering that the state of Quintana Roo is one of the main tourist centers of Mexico. For the most part, the study sample is composed of companies related to this economic sector such as hotels, restaurants and commerce.

These companies are subject to strict rules and control measures related to sustainable development such as reusing and recycling of materials, investment in energy savings, as well as the treatment of waste or water discharges in natural spaces. In this sense, the family business is more socially responsible than the non-family one; therefore, its business objective goes beyond the maximization of profits. It also provides information to government institutions for the establishment of public policies targeted for an increase of CSR activities by businesses in the area. Managers and/or owners can understand the importance of implementing CSR activities within the business as a competitive strategy. It is also important for universities since the results can be used to upgrade study programs as well as for professors/researchers so that they continue developing science for all interested parties