From Stakeholder Management to Stakeholder Accountability
Applying Habermasian Discourse Ethics to Accountability Research
Cite this article as: Rasche, A. & Esser, D.E. J Bus Ethics (2006) 65: 251. doi:10.1007/s10551-005-5355-y Abstract
Confronted with mounting pressure to ensure accountability vis-à-vis customers, citizens and beneficiaries, organizational leaders need to decide how to choose and implement so-called accountability standards. Yet while looking for an appropriate standard, they often base their decisions on cost-benefit calculations, thus neglecting other important spheres of influence pertaining to more broadly defined stakeholder interests. We argue in this paper that, as a part of the strategic decision for a certain standard, management needs to identify and act according to the needs of
all stakeholders. We contend that the creation of a dialogical understanding among affected stakeholders cannot be a mere outcome of applying certain accountability standards, but rather must be a necessary precondition for their use. This requires a stakeholder dialogue prior to making a choice. We outline such a discursive decision framework for accountability standards based on the Habermasian concept of communicative action and, in the final section, apply our conceptual framework to one of the most prominent accountability tools (AA 1000). Keywords accountability standards discourse ethics Habermas organizational accountability stakeholder management stakeholder dialogue Abbreviations AA 1000
Global Reporting Initiative
Institute of Social and Ethical Accountability
International Organization for Standardization
Social and Ethical Accounting, Auditing, and Reporting
Social Accountability 8000
Andreas Rasche is currently working at the chair for Business Administration at the Helmut-Schmidt-University, Hamburg, Germany and is finishing his PhD in strategic management at EUROPEAN BUSINESS SCHOOL, Germany where he is also teaching business ethics. His research interests include the institutionalization of ethics initiatives in multinational corporations (see also www.ethics-in-pratice.org) and reflections about the theory of strategic management.
Daniel Esser until recently was a Tutorial Fellow in Development Management at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He is now working for the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific where he is involved in the design and management of urban governance programmes and service schemes supporting the poverty reduction agenda for the region.
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