Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 102, Supplement 1, pp 77-87

First online:

Stakeholder Theory and Social Identity: Rethinking Stakeholder Identification

  • Andrew CraneAffiliated withSchulich School of Business, York University Email author 
  • , Trish RuebottomAffiliated withSchulich School of Business, York University

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In this article, we propose an adaption to stakeholder theory whereby stakeholders are conceptualized on the basis of their social identity. We begin by offering a critical review of both traditional and more recent developments in stakeholder theory, focusing in particular on the way in which stakeholder categories are identified. By identifying critical weaknesses in the existing approach, as well as important points of strength, we outline an alternative approach that refines our understanding of stakeholders in important ways. To do so, we draw on notions of social identity as the fundamental basis for group cohesion, mobilization, and action. A new form of cross-mapping as a basis for stakeholder identification is advanced and key research questions are set out.


Corporate responsibility Identity salience Social identity theory Stakeholder identification and classification Stakeholder theory