Stakeholder Salience for Small Businesses: A Social Proximity Perspective

  • Merja LähdesmäkiEmail author
  • Marjo Siltaoja
  • Laura J. Spence
Original Paper


This paper advances stakeholder salience theory from the viewpoint of small businesses. It is argued that the stakeholder salience process for small businesses is influenced by their local embeddedness, captured by the idea of social proximity, and characterised by multiple relationships that the owner-manager and stakeholders share beyond the business context. It is further stated that the ethics of care is a valuable ethical lens through which to understand social proximity in small businesses. The contribution of the study conceptualises how the perceived social proximity between local stakeholders and small business owner-managers influences managerial considerations of the legitimacy, power and urgency of stakeholders and their claims. Specifically, the paradoxical nature of close relationships in the salience process is acknowledged and discussed.


Ethics of care Local embeddedness Small business Social proximity Stakeholder relations Stakeholder salience 



Merja Lähdesmäki and Marjo Siltaoja have received research grants from Academy of Finland (Grant Numbers 259482 and 260138). The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Human and Animal Rights

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Merja Lähdesmäki
    • 1
    Email author
  • Marjo Siltaoja
    • 2
  • Laura J. Spence
    • 3
  1. 1.Ruralia InstituteUniversity of HelsinkiSeinäjokiFinland
  2. 2.School of Business and EconomicsUniversity of JyväskyläJyväskyläFinland
  3. 3.Royal Holloway, University of London, School of ManagementEghamUK

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