Ayuso, S., Roca, M. and Colomé, R. (2013) SMEs as “transmitters” of CSR requirements in the supply chain, Supply Chain Management: An International Journal, Vol. 18 Núm. 5, pp. 497-508.
The purpose of this paper is to develop understanding of the role of small to medium‐sized enterprises (SMEs) in relation to sustainable supply chain management, i.e. how corporate social responsibility (CSR) is integrated in their relationship with customers and suppliers. Drawing from a survey of CSR requirements among 410 Spanish SMEs, the paper examines the extent to which SMEs receive social and environmental requirements from diverse customer typologies and the extent to which they pass on such requirements to different supplier typologies. Based on survey results, it is concluded that large businesses are the most demanding customers in terms of the CSR requirements imposed to their SME suppliers. In turn, SMEs are able to transfer the requests received from their (larger) customers to their own suppliers. The data are confined to companies located in a particular region (Catalonia in Spain), which questions its generalizability to other geographical contexts. The research shows that small and medium companies can be effective in spreading the CSR requirements received from large companies through the supply chain. The paper contributes to research on sustainable supply chain management from the SME perspective and offers a systematic analysis of the CSR activities of SMEs, both as suppliers and buyers. In addition, it proposes a rigorous way to measure the CSR‐related supply chain pressure.