Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 109, Issue 1, pp 39–51 | Cite as

How Do European SME Owner–Managers Make Sense of ‘Stakeholder Management’?: Insights from a Cross-National Study

  • Hans-Jörg SchliererEmail author
  • Andrea Werner
  • Silvana Signori
  • Elisabeth Garriga
  • Heidi von Weltzien Hoivik
  • Annick Van Rossem
  • Yves Fassin


The vast majority of empirical research on stakeholder management has traditionally focused on multinational corporations. Only in recent years, scholars have begun to pay attention to the stakeholder management concept in relation to small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The few existing studies in this area, however, discuss SMEs as a context free category or remain focused on single country analysis. This cross-national empirical research investigates SME owner–managers’ perceptions of stakeholder management in six European countries. The comparative analysis is followed by a discussion of how institutional, cultural and linguistic contexts can influence owner–managers’ sensemaking of stakeholder management. Our study questions the universality of specific management terms and proposes that more attention should be paid to the institutional, cultural and linguistic environments that shape economic activity in different parts of Europe.


Comparative research Language National business environments Sensemaking Small- and medium-sized enterprises Small business Stakeholder management 



The authors are grateful to the European Business Ethics Network (EBEN), as this research has benefitted from a special grant from EBEN’s cross-national project fund. The authors would also like to thank the reviewers for their helpful feedback and comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hans-Jörg Schlierer
    • 1
    Email author
  • Andrea Werner
    • 2
  • Silvana Signori
    • 3
  • Elisabeth Garriga
    • 4
  • Heidi von Weltzien Hoivik
    • 5
  • Annick Van Rossem
    • 6
  • Yves Fassin
    • 7
  1. 1.EM Lyon Business SchoolLyonFrance
  2. 2.Middlesex University Business SchoolLondonUK
  3. 3.Università degli Studi di BergamoBergamoItaly
  4. 4.EADA Business SchoolBarcelonaSpain
  5. 5.BI Norwegian Business SchoolOsloNorway
  6. 6.Hogeschool Universiteit BrusselBrusselsBelgium
  7. 7.Vlerick Business School & Ghent UniversityGhentBelgium

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