A Case Study of Micro Businesses in Jelutong Wet Market in Penang, Malaysia: Implications for CSR Scholarship

  • Teik Aun WongEmail author
  • Mohammad Reevany Bustami
Original Paper


Scholarship on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has progressed to encompass a variety of theoretical frameworks. The adoption of Stakeholder Theory is prominent with regard to CSR among big businesses but its applicability towards micro and small businesses is contested. Micro and small businesses possess distinct differences most notably their less formal structure and more pronounced indigenous cultural diversity. To expand scholarship on CSR, this research explores the relatively less studied realm of micro businesses or informal businesses. Due to their rudimentary structure, micro businesses normally operate with other organizations, institutions, and each other, and are thus intricately linked with the local community. Hence, this research explores a locality and institution where micro businesses thrive—Jelutong wet market in Penang, Malaysia. This research offers a rare and arguably novel perspective. Firstly, the micro businesses are operating alongside and constantly interacting with each other within the institutional setting of a wet market (“Wet markets” in Malaysia are akin to farmers’ markets in America. They are usually established and operated by the local city or municipal council. Wet markets typically consist of a main market building and the surrounding roads and open areas. Meats, poultry, seafood, and vegetables are usually sold in the main market building that is sheltered. Slaughtering and de-feathering of poultry, and butchering of pork, beef, and lamb are usually conducted at the building premise and the floor is frequently wet hence the term “wet market.” The surrounding roads and open areas usually sell vegetables, fruits, hardware, clothing, toys, street hawker food, economy rice, savories, and a plethora of other goods and services.). Secondly, the said wet market is located in Penang, Malaysia that is highly diverse in terms of ethnicity, culture, religion, language, age, and socio-economics. The fieldwork employs multiple local languages for a high degree of authenticity and richness in data. Thirdly, this research adopts the methodology of phenomenology with a multi-layered approach. The fieldwork consists of thirty (30) primary interviews followed by five (5) verification interviews all conducted in local languages the respondents are most comfortable in expressing themselves, fifteen (15) non-participant observations, and ten (10) participant observations. An abductive research strategy is adopted and first-order constructs in the form of everyday typifications are adduced. The first-order constructs are analyzed along the layers of Carroll’s Pyramid of CSR. Subsequently, the second-order constructs are iteratively analyzed and three (3) typologies on CSR among micro businesses emerged. Finally, the findings from the second-order constructs are superimposed back onto the Pyramid of CSR. A different Pyramid of CSR emerges with fresh insights on the phenomenon of CSR among micro businesses. Retroductive reflection, reasoning, and analysis reveal Social Capital Theory as the most suitable theoretical framework and the implications for CSR scholarship are discussed.


Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Phenomenology Stakeholder theory Social capital theory Micro businesses Wet market 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

There are no discernible conflicts of interest in this study.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the home university and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.INTI International College PenangPulau PinangMalaysia
  2. 2.CenPRIS, Universiti Sains MalaysiaPenangMalaysia

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