Stakeholder Multiplicity: Toward an Understanding of the Interactions between Stakeholders


While stakeholder theory has traditionally considered organization’s interactions with stakeholders in terms of independent, dyadic relationships, recent scholarship has pointed to the fact that organizations exist within a complex network of intertwining relationships [e.g., Rowley, T. J.: 1997, The Academy of Management Review 22(4), 887–910]. However, further theoretical and empirical development of the interactions between stakeholders has been lacking. In this paper, we develop a framework for understanding and measuring the effects upon the organization of competing, complementary and cooperative stakeholder interactions, which we refer to as stakeholder multiplicity. We draw upon three forms of fit (i.e. fit as matching, fit as moderation, and fit as gestalts; Venkatraman, N.: 1989) to develop a framework for understanding stakeholder multiplicity based upon the direction, strength, and synergies of the interacting claims. Additionally, we draw upon the theory of stakeholder identification and salience of Mitchell et al. (1997), which we argue provides a more relevant and significantly more illustrative explanation of the nature and effects of stakeholder interactions upon the organization than the network approach of Rowley (1997). Furthermore, we ground our framework through reference to three stakeholder groups (i.e. governments, customers, and employees) and the stakeholder issue of concern for the natural environment. We propose a hierarchy of the multiplicity strength of influence of these three stakeholder groups. Potential measurement and implications are discussed.

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Correspondence to Benjamin A. Neville.

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Neville, B.A., Menguc, B. Stakeholder Multiplicity: Toward an Understanding of the Interactions between Stakeholders. J Bus Ethics 66, 377–391 (2006).

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  • corporate social responsibility
  • stakeholder networks
  • stakeholder multiplicity
  • stakeholder salience
  • stakeholder theory
  • strategic fit