A Puzzle in SRI: Stakeholders in the Mist

Philosophy of Management 8 (3):81-96 (2009)

Abstract

‘Stakeholder’ and related notions have been coined to enhance managerial practice in mainstream corporations. Currently, these notions are abundantly present in all kinds of discourses, especially those on ‘socially responsible investing’. But what kind of stakeholder management are these socially responsible investors promoting and what might be reasonable expectations about outcomes? We find that they promote an approach that has shareholder value as motivation and legitimisation and that they nowhere promote sharing of governance with stakeholders other than shareholders. We explain why this might reasonably be expected. Besides mainstream investors and corporations, investing through co-operatively structured corporations differs regarding stakeholder positions with respect to the position of at least one stakeholder group, whether this be consumers, employees or producers. What are the implications thereof and are these investments then superior from a socially responsible perspective on investment? We find that co-operative investors meet their own set of difficulties in implementing stakeholder management. Our questions and findings enable us to formulate some critical remarks on the stakeholder-notion in both discourses and in general. We suggest that its use, if not halted altogether, should at least be restricted and substituted by the use of more specific notions

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Jos Leys
University of Ghent

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