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Understanding Corporate Social Responsibility and the Case of Small and Medium Enterprises in a Kazakh Context



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The proposed case study seeks to acquire empirical evidence on the evolution of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in the context of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Kazakhstan. This research draws upon primary sources, including in-depth interviews of general managers of Kazakhstani SMEs along with professionals in the field of CSR in Kazakhstan, and a survey of SME customers. After the collapse of the USSR in 1991, Kazakhstani business culture has been exposed to rapid changes, which affected almost every aspect of social interactions from political and institutional architecture to common cultural references and social norms. Simultaneously, transformations in business and economic relations at the global level have produced a growth in discourse on CSR, particularly in developing countries. These systemic changes and international developments prompted this research to explore what constitutes CSR in the case of SMEs in Kazakhstan? Without a consideration of contextual features, it becomes difficult to understand how and why phenomena such as CSR may or may not be adapted and incorporated into the local Kazakhstani business in the same way as in countries with established free economy markets. Findings from this research challenge the prevailing belief that local CSR is newly born phenomenon, which was merely brought to Kazakhstan from outside. Instead, this study demonstrates a considerable discrepancy between the Western conceptualisations and the local CSR realities. Contrary to popular assumptions, the notion of social responsibility has a unique and sustained history in Kazakhstan. This study examined the effect of local cultural and historical circumstances in shaping the development, conceptualisation, and adoption of CSR in Kazakhstani SMEs. To do so, this research 1) explored the “local roots” of Kazakstani CSR and analysed the determinants of its unique form, 2) identified the main recipients of SMEs’ CSR, whose concerns are prioritised, 3) unfolded the driving forces compelling local companies to adopt CSR practices.







Corporate Social Responsibility, SMEs, Case study, Kazakhstan


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge