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From Instrumental Stakeholder Theory to Stakeholder Capitalism  

André O. Laplume

Instrumental stakeholder theory posits that managing for stakeholders using justice-based approaches produces competitive advantage for firms. However, achieving the ideals of stakeholder management may be challenging, and for some firms, unrewarding. Yet, when firms fail to manage for stakeholders, they contribute to stakeholder marginalization, a condition in which stakeholders feel unfairly treated and begin to scan for alternative arrangements with other firms. Stakeholder marginalization creates opportunities for competitors, but especially for new entrants, to pursue stakeholder innovation. Stakeholder innovation involves the creation of a business model that caters to marginalized stakeholder groups in a new way, by improving perceived conditions for those stakeholders (e.g., customers, employees, suppliers, or communities). Stakeholder innovations can threaten incumbencies as their ecosystems bloom and technologies improve, and they can start to draw a greater variety of resources away from incumbent networks. Because it can help to explain and predict both incumbent and new entrant behaviors, stakeholder capitalism is a useful frame for theorizing in the disciplines of management and entrepreneurship.


Pathways in Stakeholder Research  

Ronald K. Mitchell, Bradley R. Agle, and J. Robert Mitchell

Stakeholder-focused research seeks to explain relationships among firms and stakeholders, using approaches that predominantly follow normative, instrumental, or descriptive pathways. Following circulation of the 1963 Stanford Memo and the 1984 publication of Freeman, the stakeholder perspective has become a sizable area of research in diverse fields, with growing influence in the business community as indicated in 2019 by the commitment of the US Business Roundtable to stakeholder principles. Still, the tendency to offer stakeholder theory as a replacement for neoclassical theories of the firm somewhat limits its adoption. An approach more likely to advance the trend toward an increasing stakeholder orientation is one of theory collaboration, in which researchers explore how self-interested action in the market system can be tempered by others-interested action. To this aim, the three stakeholder research pathways might be extended, as follows: (a) adding a moral and ethical leadership component to normative stakeholder theory research to move from a philosophy-centric literature toward one that better explains the how and why of normatively based actions toward stakeholders; (b) adopting a stakeholder-work-focused approach to instrumental stakeholder theory research to afford it the benefits of moral neutrality; and (c) returning the focus of descriptive stakeholder theory research to stakeholders as “natural persons,” as compared to corporations as “juristic persons.” With these extensions, scholars can encourage the ongoing reorientation in society toward the stakeholders of firms.


Stakeholder Engagement in Management Studies: Current and Future Debates  

Sybille Sachs and Johanna Kujala

Stakeholder engagement refers to the aims, practices, and impacts of stakeholder relations in businesses and other organizations. According to a general framework, stakeholder engagement has four dimensions: examining stakeholder relations, communicating with stakeholders, learning with (and from) stakeholders, and integrative stakeholder engagement. Stakeholder engagement is increasingly used in areas like strategic management, corporate social responsibility (CSR), and sustainability management, while stakeholder-engagement research in marketing, finance, and human resources (HR) is still less common. Two main camps in the stakeholder-engagement literature exist: the strategic and the normative. To foster an inclusive understanding of stakeholder engagement, future research in both camps is needed. While the strategic camp necessitates a relational view, including both the firm and the stakeholder perspectives, the normative camp requires novel philosophical underpinnings, such as humanism and ecocentrism. Furthermore, there is constant debate about the argument that stakeholder engagement is, and should be, most importantly, practical. Stakeholder-engagement research should focus on solving real-life problems with practical consequences intended to make people’s lives better.


Sustainability in Business: Integrated Management of Value Creation and Disvalue Mitigation  

Markus Beckmann and Stefan Schaltegger

Sustainable development is about meeting the needs of current and future generations while operating in the safe ecological space of planetary boundaries. Against this background, companies can contribute to sustainability in both positive and negative ways. In a world of scarce resources, the positive contribution of businesses is to create value for diverse stakeholders (i.e., goods in the actual sense of good services and things with value) without social shortfalls or ecological overshooting with regard to planetary boundaries. Yet, when value-creation processes cause negative social or ecological externalities, companies create disvalue for current or future stakeholders, thus undermining sustainable development. Sustainability in business therefore aims at the integrative management of value creation and disvalue mitigation. Various institutions, such as sustainability laws as well as quasi-regulatory and voluntary sustainability standards, aim at providing an enabling environment in this regard yet are often insufficient. Corporate sustainability therefore calls for proactive management. Neither value nor disvalue fall from heaven but are rather co-created or caused through the interaction with stakeholders. Transforming from unsustainability to sustainability thus requires transforming the underlying relational arrangements. Here, market and non-market stakeholder relations need to be distinguished. In markets, companies transact with customers, employees, suppliers, and financiers who typically have voluntary exchange relationships with the firm. As a result, stakeholders can use the exit option when the relationship causes them harm. Companies therefore need to know and respect their value-creation partners, their potential contributions, and above all their needs. Sustainability can influence these market relationships in two ways. First, as sustainability addresses environmental, social, and ethical issues that are otherwise often overlooked, sustainability can relate to specific goals and motivations that stakeholders pursue when they care about these matters. Second, sustainability can be linked to transaction-specific particularities. This can be the case when sustainability features lead to information asymmetries, higher transaction costs, or resource dependencies. Non-market relationships, however, can differ in that stakeholders are involuntarily affected by the firm. In many cases, such as environmental pollution, stakeholders like local communities experience disvalue but cannot simply walk away. From a sustainability perspective, giving voice to non-market stakeholders through dialogue and participation is therefore crucial to identify early-on potential issues where companies cause disvalue. Such a proactive dialogue does not necessarily present a constraint that limits value creation in the market. Giving a voice to non-market stakeholders can also help create innovations and mobilize valuable resources such as knowledge, legitimacy, and partnership. The key idea is to find solutions that create value not only for market stakeholders but also for a larger circle, including non-market stakeholders as well. Such stakeholder business cases for sustainability aim at the synergistic integration of value creation and disvalue mitigation.


Governance of Financial Institutions  

Guler Aras

Corporate governance is a central issue in business and economics. However, governance in financial institutions is more complicated than in other fields because of the nature of financial services and instruments. Financial organizations are similar to other businesses in terms of their purposes of establishment, but confidence in management and complex risk structures are more important in financial organizations than in other businesses. In financial institutions, there are various areas in which problems arise that are related to corporate governance, including the agency problem and stakeholder protection. The importance of good governance for sound performance of financial institutions was reconfirmed during the 2008 financial crisis, raising the need to understand the agency problems and the efficiency of various corporate governance mechanisms in mitigating them. International organizations, such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the Basel Committee, the International Finance Corporation, and the International Organization of Securities Commissions, have been working with regulators and policy makers to improve corporate governance practices both in nonfinancial and financial institutions. Corporate governance, especially in financial institutions, is essential in guaranteeing a sound financial system, capital markets, and sustainable economic growth. Governance weaknesses at financial institutions can result in the transmission of problems across the finance sector and the economy. Consequently, the effectiveness of governance mechanisms of financial institutions and capital markets after financial crises had significant importance in a period that witnessed an intensive discussion of corporate governance issues with new regulations and the related academic works.