Authors: Michael Colin Cant, Claudette van Niekerk
Abstract: Small businesses play a vital role in most economies worldwide. These businesses are in many instances the creators of jobs and in many instances barely surviving. In Africa, in general, and South Africa in particular, there are huge pressures on small business development and to assist in alleviating poverty and help with social upliftment.
Many small business entrepreneurs are forced into business in order to survive which in turn may lead to them being less ethically inclined and rather focused on survival. This in itself can lead to a moral dilemma for them. It is therefore important to consider the attitude SME owners have towards ethical issues in the business sector, and to what extent they would compromise on these issues in order to survive.
The main purpose of the study is therefore to determine the attitude owners of small businesses in South Africa have towards the ethical environment in which they operate. The research followed a quantitative approach where a survey questionnaire was used as the data collection method. The results indicate that owners of small businesses have a negative attitude towards the ethical responsibilities of the organisation in which they operate.
Alternatively, respondents do understand what is meant by ethics and what it entails. Their attitude regarding their perception of what an organisation should commit to in order to be ethical, shows that respondents understands what constitutes ethical behaviour.
Keywords: SMEs; South Africa; ethical behaviour; ethical issues; ethical environment; attitude