Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 74, Issue 4, pp 315–327 | Cite as

Stakeholder Engagement: Beyond the Myth of Corporate Responsibility

  • Michelle GreenwoodEmail author


The purpose of this article is to transcend the assumption that stakeholder engagement is necessarily a responsible practice. Stakeholder engagement is traditionally seen as corporate responsibility in action. Indeed, in some literatures there exists an assumption that the more an organisation engages with its stakeholders, the more it is responsible. This simple ‹more is better’ view of stakeholder engagement belies the true complexity of the relationship between engagement and corporate responsibility. Stakeholder engagement may be understood in a variety of different ways and from a variety of different theoretical perspectives. Stakeholder engagement may or may not involve a moral dimension and, hence, is primarily a morally neutral practice. It is therefore argued that stakeholder engagement must be seen as separate from, but related to, corporate responsibility. A model that reflects the multifaceted relationship between the two constructs is proposed. This model not only allows the coincidence of stakeholder engagement with corporate responsibility, but also allows for the development of the notion of corporate irresponsibility.


corporate irresponsibility corporate responsibility human resource management social reporting stakeholder engagement stakeholder theory 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Arnstein S. (1969) A Ladder of Citizen Participation. Journal of the American Institute of Planners 35(4):216–224Google Scholar
  2. Bauman Z. (1993) Postmodern Ethics. Routledge, LondonGoogle Scholar
  3. Bell E., Taylor S. (2003) The Elevation of Work: Pastoral Power and the New Age Work Ethic. Organization 10(2):329–349CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. BSR: 2006, ‹Stakeholder Engagement’, (Business for Social Responsibility, San Francisco), date accessed November 26:2006Google Scholar
  5. Buchholz R. A., Rosenthal S. B. (2005) Toward a Contemporary Conceptual Framework for Stakeholder Theory. Journal of Business Ethics 58:137–148CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Camelot: 2006, ‹Corporate Responsibility Report 2006’ (Camelot Group)Google Scholar
  7. Claydon T., Doyle M. (1996) Trusting Me, Trusting You? The Ethics of Employee Empowerment. Personnel Review 25(6):13–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Crane A., Matten D. (2004) Business Ethics, a European Perspective: Managing Corporate Citizenship and Sustainability in the Age of Globalization. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  9. Deegan C. (2002) The Legitimising Effects of Social and Environmental Disclosures – A Theoretical Foundation. Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal 15(3):282–311CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Donaldson T. (2002) The Stakeholder Revolution and the Clarkson Principles. Business Ethics Quarterly 12(2):107–111Google Scholar
  11. Donaldson T., Preston L. E. (1995) The Stakeholder Theory of the Corporation: Concepts, Evidence and Implications. Academy of Management Review 20(1):65–91CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Evan W. M., Freeman R. E. (2004) A Stakeholder Theory of the Modern Corporation: Kantian Capitalism. In Beauchamp T. L., Bowie N. (eds.) Ethical Theory and Business. Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJGoogle Scholar
  13. Freeman R. E. (1984) Strategic Management: A Stakeholder Approach. Pitman, BostonGoogle Scholar
  14. Friedman M. (1970) The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits. The New York Times Magazine, 13:1970Google Scholar
  15. Frooman J. (1999) Stakeholder Influence Strategies. Academy of Management Review 24(2):191–205CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gibson K. (2000) The Moral Basis of Stakeholder Theory. Journal of Business Ethics 26(3):245–257CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gray R. (2002) The Social Accounting Project and Accounting Organizations and Society. Accounting Organizations and Society 27(7):687–708CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Greenwood M. R. (2001) The Importance of Stakeholders According to Business Leaders. Business and Society Review 106(1):29–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hosmer L. T. (1995) Trust: The Connecting Link Between Organizational Theory and Philosophical Ethics. Academy of Management Review 20(2):379–403CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Jensen M. C. (2002) Value Maximization, Stakeholder Theory, and the Corporate Objective Function. Business Ethics Quarterly 12(2):235–256Google Scholar
  21. Kaler J. (2002) Morality and Strategy in Stakeholder Identification. Journal of Business Ethics 39(1):91–99CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kaler J. (2003) Differentiating Stakeholder Theories. Journal of Business Ethics 46(1):71–83CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kamoche K. N. (2006) Managing People in Turbulent Economic Times: A Knowledge-creation and Appropriation Perspective. Asia Pacific Journal of Human Resources 44(1):25CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kaptein M., Wempe J. (1998) The Ethics Report: A Means of Sharing Responsibility. Business Ethics: A European Review 7(3):131–139CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Knight P. (1998) Principles and Profits: Does There Have to be a Choice? The Shell Report 1998. The Royal Dutch Shell Group, LondonGoogle Scholar
  26. Kok P., van der Wiele T., McKenna R., Brown A. (2001) A Corporate Social Responsibility Audit Within a Quality Management Framework. Journal of Business Ethics 31:285–297CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Legge K. (1995) Human Resource Management: Rhetorics and Reality. Macmillan, LondonGoogle Scholar
  28. Livesey S. M., Kearins K. (2002) Transparent and Caring Corporations? A Study of Sustainability Reports by The Body Shop and Royal Dutch/Shell. Organization & Environment 15(3):233–258CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Maltby J., Wilkinson R. (1998) Stakeholding and Corporate Governance in the UK. Politics 18(3):197–204CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Miles S. and A. L. Friedman: 2002, `Exploring the Social Construction of Stakeholder Management in the UK', Discussion Papers in Governance and Accountability No 02/008, Oxford Brookes University Business SchoolGoogle Scholar
  31. Mitchell R. K., Agle B. R., Wood D. J. (1997) Towards a Theory of Stakeholder Identification and Salience: Defining the Principle of Who and What Really Counts. Academy of Management Review 22(4):853–886CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Moore G. (2004) The Institute of Business Ethics/European Business Ethics Network–UK Student Competition in Business Ethics. Business Ethics: A European Review 13(1):64CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. O’Dywer B.: (2003) Conceptions of Corporate Social Responsibility: The Nature of Managerial Capture. Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal 16(4):523–557CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Obi C. (1997) Globalisation and Local Resistance: The Case of the Ogoni versus Shell. New Political Economy 2(1):137–148Google Scholar
  35. Owen D., Swift T. (2001) Social Accounting, Reporting and Auditing: Beyond the Rhetoric?. Business Ethics: A European Review 10(1):4–8CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Owen D., Swift T., Hunt K. (2001) Questioning the Role of Stakeholder Engagement in Social and Ethical Accounting, Auditing and Reporting. Accounting Forum 25(3):264–282CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Owen D., Swift T., Humphrey C., Bowerman M. (2000) The New Social Audits: Accountability, Managerial Capture or the Agenda of Social Champions?. European Accounting Review 9(1):81–98CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Peccei R. and D. Guest: 2002, ‹Trust, Exchange and Virtuous Circles of Co-operation: A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis of Partnerships at Work’, The Management Centre Research Papers, King’s College London Research Paper 011Google Scholar
  39. Phillips R. (1997) Stakeholder Theory and a Principle of Fairness. Business Ethics Quarterly 7(1):51–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Phillips R. (1999) On Stakeholder Delimitation. Business and Society 38:32–34Google Scholar
  41. Phillips R. (2003) Stakeholder Theory and Organizational Ethics. Berrett-Koehler, San Francisco, CAGoogle Scholar
  42. Power M. (2004) Counting, Control and Calculation: Reflections on Measuring and Management. Human Relations 57(6):765–783CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Roberts J. (2003) The Manufacture of Corporate Social Responsibility: Constructing Corporate Sensibility. Organization 10(2):249–265CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Rothschild J. (2000) Creating a Just and Democratic Workplace: More Engagement, Less Hierarchy. Contemporary Sociology 29(1):195–211CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Rowan J. R. (2000) The Moral Foundation of Employee Rights. Journal of Business Ethics 24(4):355–361CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Scherer A. G. and G. Palazzo: 2007, ‹Toward a Political Conception of Corporate Responsibility. Business and Society Seen From a Habermasian Perspective’, Academy of Management Review 32(4), forthcomingGoogle Scholar
  47. Sillanpaa M. (1998) The Body Shop Values Report – Towards Integrated Stakeholder Auditing. Journal of Business Ethics 17(13):1443–1456CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Slinger G. (2000) Essays on Stakeholders and Takeovers. Cambridge University, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  49. Sternberg E. (1999) The Stakeholder Concept: A Mistaken Doctrine. Foundations for Business Responsibilities, UKGoogle Scholar
  50. Sweeney M. and R. Estes: 2000, ‹Corporate Social Reporting and the Sunshine Standards: Is there Light at the End of the Tunnel?’, In B. E. R. U. (ed.), Proceedings of the Ethical Governance and Management Conference: Costs and Benefits. Victoria University, Melbourne AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  51. Swift T. (2001) Trust, Reputation and Corporate Accountability to Stakeholders. Business Ethics: A European Review 10(1):16–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. ten Bos R., Willmott H. (2001) Towards a Post-dualistic Business Ethics: Interweaving Reason and Emotion in Working Life. Journal of Management Studies 38(6):769–793CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Ten C. (1980) Mill on Liberty. Clarendon Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  54. UNEP (2000) Engaging Stakeholders: The Global Reporters. United Nations Environment Programme, LondonGoogle Scholar
  55. Van Buren III H. (2001) If Fairness is the Problem, is Consent the Solution? Integrating ISCT and Stakeholder Theory. Business Ethics Quarterly 11(3):481–499CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Vidal J.: 1999, ‹Eco Soundings’, The Guardian, 3 NovemberGoogle Scholar
  57. Wheeler D., Boele R., Fabig H. (2002) Paradoxes and Dilemmas for Stakeholder Responsive Firms in the Extractive Sector – Lessons from the Case of Shell and the Ogoni. Journal of Business Ethics 39(3):297–318CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Wicks A. C., Gilbert J., Daniel R., Freeman R. E. (1994) A Feminist Reinterpretation of the Stakeholder Concept. Business Ethics Quarterly 4(4):475–497CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Wicks A. C., Berman S. L., Jones T. M. (1999) The Structure of Optimal Trust: Moral and Strategic Implications. Academy of Management Review 24(1):99–116CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Windsor D. (2001) The Future of Corporate Social Responsibility. International Journal of Organizational Analysis 9:225–256Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Monash UniversityClaytonAustralia

Personalised recommendations