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Corporations, Stakeholders and Sustainable Development I: A Theoretical Exploration of Business–Society Relations

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Abstract

Sustainable development (SD) – that is, “Development that meets the needs of current generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs and aspirations” – can be pursued in many different ways. Stakeholder relations management (SRM) is one such way, through which corporations are confronted with economic, social, and environmental stakeholder claims. This paper lays the groundwork for an empirical analysis of the question of how far SD can be achieved through SRM. It describes the so-called SD–SRM perspective as a distinctive research approach and shows how it relates to the wider body of stakeholder theory. Next, the concept of SD is operationalized for the microeconomic level with reference to important documents. Based on the ensuing SD framework, it is shown how SD and SRM relate to each other, and how the two concepts relate to other popular concepts such as Corporate Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility. The paper concludes that the significance of societal guiding models such as SD and of management approaches like CSR is strongly dependent on their footing in society.

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Correspondence to Reinhard Steurer.

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Reinhard Steurer is a senior researcher and lecturer at the Research Institute for Managing Sustainability at the Vienna University of Economics and Business Adminstration. His research focuses on the changing roles of states, businesses and civil societies in the context of sustainable development. He is author and co-author of numerous articles, dealing with questions of how governments and businesses tackle the challenge of sustainable development, and what the two societal domains can learn from each other in doing so. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Salzburg/Austria, and a Masters in Public Policy from the University of Maryland/U.S.A.

Markus E. Langer studied ecology and environmental economics at the University of Vienna and the Vienna University of Economics and Business Adminstration as well as industrial environmental management at Yale University. He is currently working as Managing Director of FORUM Umweltbildung. Previously he was working since 1999 as a senior researcher and lecturer at the Research Institute for Managing Sustainability at the Vienna University of Economics and Business Adminstration. His research focused on the Evaluation of Sustainable Development as well as Corporate Social Responsibility and Stakeholder Management.

Astrid Konrad studied business administration at the University of Graz. She has been working at the Research Institute for Managing Sustainability at the Vienna University of Economics and Business Adminstration since 2002. Her research focus is on Corporate Social Responsibility and Stakeholder Management.

André Martinuzzi studied business adminstration at the Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration. He is working as a project manager at the Department of Environmental Economics and Management since 1993, as a lecturer at the Vienna University of Economics and Business Adminstration and leads the Managing Sustainability Research Centre since 1999. Since 2001 he worked as a scientific coordinator of Austria’s Sustainability Strategy. In 2003 he worked as a scientific editor of the Corporate Social Responsibility vision statement of the Austrian Industry and as a process consultant for the Austrian Forest Program. Research areas: Eco-Consulting, Corporate Sustainability, Evaluating Sustainable Development, Sustainability Strategies and Stakeholder Dialogues.

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Steurer, R., Langer, M.E., Konrad, A. et al. Corporations, Stakeholders and Sustainable Development I: A Theoretical Exploration of Business–Society Relations. J Bus Ethics 61, 263–281 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-005-7054-0

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