The confines of stakeholder management
Stakeholder theory is a pertinent example of a framework that has been stretched over many conceptual contexts and that has been applied to a wide variety of empirical phenomena. A pressing issue involves the scope of application of stakeholder theory, however, because it is not a comprehensive ethical scheme or problem-solving algorithm. We begin our search for the boundaries of stakeholder management by identifying a presently under-acknowledged yet major underlying assumption, notably that the approach is rooted in voluntary action and association. Building on this presumption, we argue that firm – stakeholder relationships are best to be understood in contractualist terms; i.e. as voluntary arrangements between two or more parties seeking mutual benefit. This assertion subsequently allows us to identify three boundary conditions applying to stakeholder theory: (1) the parties should be sufficiently autonomous; (2) their interests need to be alignable; and (3) they should be capableof living up to their commitments. We substantiate these criteria with evidence from a collective case study of buyer – supplier relationships in the Dutch manufacturing sector, demonstrating that the stakeholder management model fails when these boundary criteria are violated.
|Keywords||Netherlands, boundary criteria, collective case study, contractualist theories, interview data, manufacturing industries, stakeholder management, voluntary association|
|Persistent URL||dx.doi.org/1020807101387, hdl.handle.net/1765/11604|
Heugens, P.P.M.A.R., & van Oosterhout, J.. (2002). The confines of stakeholder management. Journal of Business Ethics, 387–403. doi:1020807101387