This paper presents an empirical analysis of the attitude of 500 German SMEs towards corporate responsibility. The topic of corporate responsibility is mainly and most intensely discussed in terms of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Corporate Citizenship (CC) of large companies (European Commission 2001; Herchen 2007; Examples in Gazdar, Habisch & Kirchhoff 2006). In contrast, research into the specific role of small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) is lagging behind. In Germany in particular, in the home country of the social market economy, there is a lack of adequate empirical studies in spite of the fact that most German companies are SMEs.

It can be assumed that the attitude towards entrepreneurial social responsibility especially depends on the type of business ownership (family business or non-family business). The combination of family and company ownership results in singular structure characteristics with a positive impact on a sustainable company leadership which takes into account economic as well as social and ecological aspects (Scherer, Blanc, Kormann, Groth & Wimmer 2005). For family businesses, taking over socio-economic responsibility is an integral part of good economic activity (Von Passavant 2009).