Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 107, Issue 2, pp 147-158

First online:

Stakeholder Approach: What Effects Should We Take into Account in Contemporary Societies?

  • Jose Maria Lopez-De-PedroAffiliated withC.U. Villanueva
  • , Eva Rimbau-GilabertAffiliated withDepartment of Economics and Business Science, Open University of Catalonia (UOC) Email author 

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In recent years, the stakeholder approach has been widely applied in the debate on corporate social responsibility (CSR). Although many authors of this approach have reviewed many elements of the model, they have unconditionally accepted several criteria assumed by Freeman (1984) to identify stakeholders. In general, stakeholder authors have assumed that (a) the company establishes dyadic relationships with other agents, and (b) decisions made by a company only have foreseen and direct effects on other agents. These criteria have enabled researchers to understand simple processes. However, they have also prevented researchers from explaining how action comes about, and how responsibility is shared, in many complex processes taking place in contemporary societies. Such complex processes involve many agents, and each decision can generate unexpected effects which accumulate or disseminate. Furthermore, the normative structure governing these processes can affect and/or be affected by the actions of agents. In this study, we propose new criteria to expand the stakeholder model and facilitate the study of CSR in such processes.


Stakeholder approach Effects Relationships Corporate responsibility Contemporary societies