Stakeholders Theory

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The stakeholder theory is a theory of organizational management and business ethics that addresses morals and values in managing an organization.[1] It was originally detailed by R. Edward Freeman in the book Strategic Management: A Stakeholder Approach, and identifies and models the groups which are stakeholders of a corporation, and both describes and recommends methods by which management can give due regard to the interests of those groups. In short, it attempts to address the "Principle of Who or What Really Counts."[2] In the traditional view of the firm, the shareholder view (the only one recognized in business law in most countries), the shareholders or stockholders are the owners of the company, and the firm has a binding fiduciary duty to put their needs first, to increase value for them. In older input-output models of the corporation, the firm converts the inputs of investors, employees, and suppliers into usable (salable) outputs which customers buy, thereby returning some capital benefit to the firm. By this model, firms only address the needs and wishes of those four parties: investors, employees, suppliers, and customers. However, stakeholder theory argues that there are other parties involved, including governmental bodies, political groups, trade associations, trade unions, communities, associated corporations, prospective employees, prospective customers, and the public at large. Sometimes even competitors are counted as stakeholders. The stakeholder view of strategy is an instrumental theory of the corporation, integrating both the resource-based view as well as the market-based view, and adding a socio-political level. This view of the firm is used to define the specific stakeholders of a corporation (the normative theory (Donaldson) of stakeholder identification) as well as examine the conditions under which these parties should be treated as stakeholders (the descriptive theory of stakeholder salience). These two questions make up the modern treatment of Stakeholder Theory. There have been numerous articles and books written on stakeholder theory. Recent scholarly works on the topic of stakeholder theory that exemplify research and theorizing in this area include Donaldson and Preston and Mitchell, Agle, and Wood (1997), Friedman and Miles (2002) and Phillips (2003). Donaldson and Preston argue that the normative base of the theory, including the "identification of moral or philosophical guidelines for the operation and management of the corporation", is the core of the theory.[3] Mitchell, et al. derive a typology of stakeholders based on the attributes of power (the extent a party has means to impose its will in a relationship), legitimacy (socially accepted and expected structures or behaviors), and urgency (time sensitivity or criticality of the stakeholder's claims).[4] By examining the combination of these attributes in a binary manner, 8 types of stakeholders are derived along with their implications for the organization. Friedman and Miles explore the implications of contentious relationships between stakeholders and organizations by introducing compatible/incompatible interests and necessary/contingent connections as additional attributes with which to examine the configuration of these relationships.[5] The political philosopher Charles Blattberg has criticized stakeholder theory for assuming that the interests of the various stakeholders can be, at best, compromised or balanced against each other. Blattberg argues that this is a product of its emphasis on negotiation as the chief mode of dialogue for dealing with conflicts between stakeholder interests. He recommends conversation instead and this leads him to defend what he calls a 'patriotic' conception of the corporation as an alternative to that associated with stakeholder theory.[6] Stakeholder theory is defined by Rossouw et al. in Ethics for Accountants and Auditors and by Mintz et al. in Ethical Obligations and Decision Making in...
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