Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 109, Issue 1, pp 83–96 | Cite as

Stakeholder Management, Reciprocity and Stakeholder Responsibility

  • Yves FassinEmail author


Stakeholder theory advocates that firms bear responsibility for the implications of their actions. However, while a firm affects or can affect stakeholders, stakeholders can also affect the corporation. Previous stakeholder theorising has neglected the reciprocal nature of responsibility. The question can be asked whether—in a spirit of reciprocity, loyalty and fairness—stakeholders should treat the corporation in a fair and responsible way. This study based on different definitions of stakeholders argues that various stakeholder attributes differ for different categories of stakeholders. This analysis presumes that the attribute of stakeholder reciprocity can probably be restricted to real stakeholders, labelled stakeowners: genuine stakeholders with a legitimate stake, the loyal partners who strive for mutual benefits. Stakeowners own and deserve a stake in the firm. Stakeholder reciprocity could be an innovative criterion in the corporate governance debate as to who should be accorded representation on the board. Corporate social responsibility should imply corporate stakeholder responsibility.


Stakeholder Stakeholder management Stakeholder theory Corporate social responsibility Business ethics Corporate governance Fairness Reciprocity Stakeowner 



The author would like to thank the professors Silvana Signori (Università di Bergamo), Ed Freeman (Darden School, University of Virginia), Aimé Heene (Ghent University) and Marc Buelens (Vlerick Business School) for their valuable comments and suggestions that helped to improve this paper. I would also like to acknowledge the anonymous reviewers to whom I owe the formulation of the three observations marked with an asterisk* in the text.


  1. Adair, A. (1999). Codes for conduct are good for NGOs too. Review—Institute of Public Affairs, 51(1), 26–27.Google Scholar
  2. Adam, J. S. (1965). Inequity in social exchange. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 2, 267–299.Google Scholar
  3. Alkhafaji, A. (1989). A stakeholder approach to corporate governance. Managing in a dynamic environment. Westport, CT: Quorum.Google Scholar
  4. Andriof, J., Waddock, S., Husted, B., & Sutherland Rahman, S. (2002). Unfolding stakeholder thinking. Sheffield: Greenleaf.Google Scholar
  5. Attarça, M., & Jacquot, T. (2005). La représentation de la Responsabilité Sociale des Entreprises: Une confrontation entre les approches théoriques et les visions managériales. XIViéme Conférence internationale de Management Stratégique, Angers.Google Scholar
  6. Baker, L. (1996). The ethics of protest. Vital Speeches of the Day, 62(8), 252–255.Google Scholar
  7. Bohlander, G., & Snell, S. (2009). Managing human resources. New York: Cengage Learning.Google Scholar
  8. Bosse, D., Phillips, R., & Harrison, J. (2009). Stakeholders, reciprocity, and firm performance. Strategic Management Journal, 30, 447–456.Google Scholar
  9. Bowie, N. (1991). New directions in CSR. Business Horizons, 34, 56–65.Google Scholar
  10. Bowie, N., & Werhane, P. (2005). Management ethics. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  11. Brenner, S. (1993). In J. Pasquero & D. Collins (Eds.), The stakeholder theory of the firm and organizational decision-making: Some propositions and a model (pp. 205–210). San Diego: Proceedings of the Fourth Annual Meeting of the International Association for Business and Society.Google Scholar
  12. Campbell, A. (1997). Stakeholders: The case in favour. Long Range Planning, 30(3), 446–449.Google Scholar
  13. Carroll, A. (1991). The pyramid of corporate social responsibility: Toward the moral management of organizational stakeholders. Business Horizons, 34(4), 39–48.Google Scholar
  14. Carroll, A., & Buchholtz, A. (2006). Business and society: Ethics and stakeholder management (6th ed.). Mason: Thompson Learning.Google Scholar
  15. Carson, T. (2003). Self-interest and business ethics: Some lessons of the recent corporate scandals. Journal of Business Ethics, 43(4), 389–394.Google Scholar
  16. Clarkson, M. (1995). A stakeholder framework for analyzing and evaluating corporate social performance. Academy of Management Review, 20(1), 92–117.Google Scholar
  17. Clegg, S., Courpasson, D., & Phillips, N. (2006). Power and organizations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  18. Collier, J., & Roberts, J. (2001). An ethic for corporate governance? Business Ethics Quarterly, 11(1), 67–71.Google Scholar
  19. Cornell, R., & Shapiro, A. (1987). Corporate stakeholders and corporate finance. Financial Management, 16, 5–14.Google Scholar
  20. Crane, A., & Matten, D. (2004). Business ethics: A European perspective. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Cyert, R., & March, J. (1963). The behavioral theory of the firm. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  22. Dahan, N. (2005). A contribution to the conceptualization of political resources utilized in corporate political action. Journal of Public Affairs, 5(1), 43–54.Google Scholar
  23. de Bakker, F., & den Hond, F. (2008). Introducing the politics of stakeholder influence: A review essay. Business & Society, 47, 8–20.Google Scholar
  24. den Hond, F., & de Bakker, F. (2007). Ideologically motivated activism: How activist groups influence corporate social change. Academy of Management Review, 32(3), 901–924.Google Scholar
  25. Doh, J., & Guay, T. (2006). Corporate social responsibility, public policy, and NGO activism in Europe and the United States: An institutional-stakeholder perspective. Journal of Management Studies, 43(1), 47–73.Google Scholar
  26. Doh, J., & Teegen, H. (2002). Nongovernmental organizations as institutional actors in international business: Theory and implications. International Business Review, 11, 665–684.Google Scholar
  27. Donaldson, T., & Preston, L. (1995). The stakeholder theory of the corporation: Concepts, evidence, and implications. Academy of Management Review, 20(1), 65–91.Google Scholar
  28. Elms, H. (2006). Corporate and stakeholder responsibility in Central and Eastern Europe. International Journal of Emerging Markets., 3, 203–211.Google Scholar
  29. Elms, H., & Phillips, R. (2009). Private security companies and institutional legitimacy: Corporate and stakeholder responsibility. Business Ethics Quarterly, 19(3), 403–432.Google Scholar
  30. Emerson, R. (1962). Power-dependence relations. American Sociological Review, 27, 31–41.Google Scholar
  31. Etzioni, A. (1964). Modern organizations. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  32. Evan, W., & Freeman, E. (1988). A stakeholder theory of the modern corporation: Kantian capitalism. In T. L. Beauchamp & N. Bowie (Eds.), Ethical theory and business (pp. 75–84). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  33. Fassin, Y. (2008). Shortcomings and imperfections of the stakeholder model’s graphical representation. Journal of Business Ethics, 80(4), 879–888.Google Scholar
  34. Fassin, Y. (2009a). Inconsistencies in activist’s behaviour and the ethics of NGOs. Journal of Business Ethics, 90(4), 503–521.Google Scholar
  35. Fassin, Y. (2009b). The stakeholder model refined. Journal of Business Ethics, 84, 113–135.Google Scholar
  36. Fassin, Y. (2010). A dynamic perspective in Freeman’s stakeholder model. Journal of Business Ethics, 96, 39–49.Google Scholar
  37. Fehr, E., & Gächter, S. (2000). Fairness and retaliation: The economics of reciprocity. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 14, 159–181.Google Scholar
  38. Fombrun, C. (1996). Reputation: Realizing value from the corporate image. Cambridge: Harvard Business School Press.Google Scholar
  39. Frederick, W. (1994). From CSR1 to CSR2. Business and Society, 33(2), 150–164.Google Scholar
  40. Freeman, E. (1984). Strategic management: A stakeholder approach. Boston: Pitman.Google Scholar
  41. Freeman, E. (1994). The politics of stakeholder theory: Some future directions. Business Ethics Quarterly, 4(4), 409–421.Google Scholar
  42. Freeman, E. (1999). Divergent stakeholder theory. Academy of Management Review, 24(2), 233–236.Google Scholar
  43. Freeman, E. (2004). The stakeholder approach revisited. Zeitschrift für Wirtschafts- und Unternehmensethik, 5(3), 220–241.Google Scholar
  44. Freeman, E., & Evan, W. (1990). Corporate governance: A stakeholder interpretation. The Journal of Behavioural Economics, 19(4), 337–359.Google Scholar
  45. Freeman, E., & Gilbert, D. (1988). Corporate strategy and the search for ethics. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  46. Freeman, E., Harrison, J., & Wicks, A. (2007). Managing for stakeholders. New Haven & London: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  47. Freeman, E., Harrison, J., Wicks, A., Parmar, B., & De Colle, S. (2010). Stakeholder theory: The state of the art. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  48. Freeman, E., & Reed, D. (1983). Stockholders and stakeholders: A new perspective on corporate governance. California Management Review, 25(3), 88–106.Google Scholar
  49. French, J., & Raven, B. (1959). The bases of social power. In D. Cartwright & A. Zander (Eds.), Group dynamics. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  50. Friedman, A., & Miles, S. (2006). Stakeholders: Theory and practice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  51. Frooman, J. (1999). Stakeholder influence strategies. Academy of Management Review, 24(2), 191–205.Google Scholar
  52. Galai, D., & Wiener, Z. (2008). Stakeholders and the composition of the voting rights of the board of directors. Journal of Corporate Finance, 14(2), 107–117.Google Scholar
  53. Gillan, S., & Starks, L. (2000). Corporate governance proposals and shareholder activism: The role of institutional investors. Journal of Financial Economics, 57(2), 275–305.Google Scholar
  54. Gond, J.-P., & Mercier, S. (2006). La théorie des parties prenantes: une synthèse critique. In J. Allouche (Ed.), Encyclopédie des Ressources Humaines. Paris: Vuibert.Google Scholar
  55. Goodstein, J., & Wicks, A. (2007). Corporate and stakeholder responsibility: Making business ethics a two-way conversation. Business Ethics Quarterly, 17(3), 375–398.Google Scholar
  56. Goodwin, C., & Ross, I. (1992). Consumer responses to service failures: Influence of procedural and interactional fairness perceptions. Journal of Business Research, 25(2), 149–164.Google Scholar
  57. Gouldner, A. (1960). The norm of reciprocity. American Journal of Sociology, 78, 1360–1380.Google Scholar
  58. Hansen, U., Bode, M., & Moosmayer, D. (2004). Stakeholder theory between general and contextual approaches: A German view. Zeitschrift für Wirtschafts- und Unternehmensethik, 5(3), 312–318.Google Scholar
  59. Harrison, J., & Freeman, E. (1999). Stakeholders, social responsibility and performance: Empirical evidence and theoretical perspectives. Academy of Management Journal, 42(5), 479–485.Google Scholar
  60. Hellsten, S., & Mallin, C. (2006). Are ‘ethical’ or ‘socially responsible’ investments socially responsible? Journal of Business Ethics, 66(4), 393–406.Google Scholar
  61. Henderson, D. (2001). Misguided virtue: False notions of corporate social responsibility. Wellington: New Business Roundtable.Google Scholar
  62. Hendry, J. (2005). Stakeholder influence strategies: An empirical exploration. Journal of Business Ethics, 61, 79–99.Google Scholar
  63. Holzer, B. (2008). Turning stakeseekers into stakeholders. A political coalition perspective on the politics of stakeholder influence. Business & Society, 47(1), 50–67.Google Scholar
  64. Hosmer, L. T., & Kiewitz, C. (2005). Organizational justice: A behavioral science concept with critical implications for business ethics and stakeholder theory. Business Ethics Quarterly, 15(1), 67–91.Google Scholar
  65. Hutton, W., MacDougall, A., & Zadek, S. (2001). Corporate stakeholding, ethical investment, social accounting. Journal of Business Ethics, 32(2), 107–117.Google Scholar
  66. Jamison, L., & Murdoch, H. (2005). Auditing (and communicating) your way to an ethical supply chain. Corporate Responsibility Management, 1(3), 16–21.Google Scholar
  67. Jensen, M. (2002). Value maximization, stakeholder theory, and the corporate objective function. Business Ethics Quarterly, 12(2), 235–256.Google Scholar
  68. Jones, T. M. (1995). Instrumental stakeholder theory: A synthesis of ethics and economics. Academy of Management Review, 20, 404–437.Google Scholar
  69. Jonker, J., & Nijhof, A. (2006). Looking through the eyes of the others: Assessing mutual expectations and experiences in order to shape dialogue and collaboration between business and NGOs with respect to CSR. Corporate Governance an International Review, 14(5), 456–466.Google Scholar
  70. Kaler, J. (2002). Morality and strategy in stakeholder identification. Journal of Business Ethics, 39, 91–99.Google Scholar
  71. Kapstein, E. (2001). The corporate ethics crusade. Foreign Affairs, 80(5), 105–119.Google Scholar
  72. King, B. (2008). A social movement perspective of stakeholder collective action and influence. Business & Society, 47(1), 21–49.Google Scholar
  73. Kochan, T., & Rubinstein, S. (2000). Toward a stakeholder theory of the firm: The Saturn partnership. Organization Science, 11(4), 367–386.Google Scholar
  74. Kotler, P., & Armstrong, G. (2010). Principles of marketing (13th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.Google Scholar
  75. Langtry, B. (1994). Stakeholders and the moral responsibilities of business. Business Ethics Quarterly, 4(4), 431–443.Google Scholar
  76. Luoma, P., & Goodstein, J. (1999). Stakeholders and corporate boards: Institutional influences on board composition and structure. Academy of Management Journal, 42(5), 553–563.Google Scholar
  77. Mattingly, J., & Greening, D. (2002). Public-interest groups as stakeholders: A ‘stakeholder salience’ explanation of activism. In J. Andriof, S. Waddock, B. Husted, & S. Sutherland Rahman (Eds.), Unfolding stakeholder thinking (pp. 267–289). Greenleaf: Sheffield.Google Scholar
  78. Mintzberg, H. (1983). Power in and around organizations. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  79. Mitchell, R., Agle, B., & Wood, D. (1997). Toward a theory of stakeholder identification and salience: Defining the principle of who and what really counts. Academy of Management Review, 22(4), 853–886.Google Scholar
  80. Oliver, C. (1991). Strategic responses to institutional processes. Academy of Management Review, 16(1), 145–179.Google Scholar
  81. Orts, E., & Strudler, A. (2002). The ethical and environmental limits of stakeholder theory. Business Ethics Quarterly, 12(2), 215–234.Google Scholar
  82. Pfeffer, J. (1981). Power in organizations. Marshfield, MA: Pitman.Google Scholar
  83. Phillips, R. (1997). Stakeholder theory and a principle of fairness. Business Ethics Quarterly, 7(1), 51–67.Google Scholar
  84. Phillips, R. (2003a). Stakeholder legitimacy. Business Ethics Quarterly, 13(1), 25–41.Google Scholar
  85. Phillips, R. (2003b). Stakeholder theory and organization ethics. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.Google Scholar
  86. Phillips, R., & Caldwell, C. (2005). Value chain responsibility: A farewell to arm’s length. Business and Society Review, 110(4), 345–370.Google Scholar
  87. Phillips, R., Freeman, E., & Wicks, A. (2003). What stakeholder theory is not. Business Ethics Quarterly, 13(4), 479–502.Google Scholar
  88. Post, J., Preston, L., & Sachs, S. (2002). Managing the extended enterprise: The new stakeholder view. California Management Review, 45(1), 6–28.Google Scholar
  89. Rauyruen, P., & Miller, K. (2007). Relationship quality as a predictor of B2B customer loyalty. Journal of Business Research, 60(1), 21–31.Google Scholar
  90. Rawls, J. (1971). A theory of justice. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  91. Reichheld, F. (1993). Loyalty-based management. Harvard Business Review, 71(2), 64–73.Google Scholar
  92. Robins, F. (2005). The future of corporate social responsibility. Asian Business And Management, 2005(4), 95–115.Google Scholar
  93. Rowley, T. (1997). Moving beyond dyadic ties: A network theory of stakeholder influences. Academy of Management Review, 22(4), 887–910.Google Scholar
  94. Savage, G., Nix, T., Whitehead, J., & Blair, J. (1991). Strategies for assessing and managing organizational stakeholders. Academy of Management Review, 5(2), 61–75.Google Scholar
  95. Sen, A. (1993). The quality of life. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  96. Sjöström, E. (2008). Shareholder activism for corporate social responsibility: What do we know? Sustainable Development, 163, 141.Google Scholar
  97. Southwood, P. (2003). Shareholder engagement: Prospects for improving corporate social responsibility. International Journal of Business Performance Management, 5(2, 3), 223–236.Google Scholar
  98. Spar, D., & La Mure, L. (2003). The power of activism: Assessing the impact of NGOs on global business. California Management Review, 45(3), 78–100.Google Scholar
  99. Starik, M. (1995). Should trees have managerial standing? Toward stakeholder status for non-human nature. Journal of Business Ethics, 14(3), 207–218.Google Scholar
  100. Ulrich, P. (1995). Business in the nineties: Facing public interest. In P. Ulrich & C. Sarasin (Eds.), Facing public interest. The ethical challenge to business policy and corporate communication (pp. 1–8). Dordrecht: Kluwer.Google Scholar
  101. Unerman, J., & O’Dwyer, B. (2006). Theorising accountability for NGO advocacy. Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, 19(3), 349–376.Google Scholar
  102. Wheeler, D., & Silampää, M. (1998). Including the stakeholders: The business case. Long Range Planning, 31(2), 201–210.Google Scholar
  103. Winston, M. (2002). NGO strategies for promoting corporate social responsibility. Ethics & International Affairs, 16(1), 71–87.Google Scholar
  104. Yaziji, M. (2004). Turning gadflies into allies. Harvard Business Review, 82(2), 110–115.Google Scholar
  105. Zietsma, C., & Winn, M. (2008). Building chains and directing flows. Strategies and tactics of mutual influence in stakeholder conflicts. Business and Society, 47(1), 68–101.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Vlerick Business School & Ghent UniversityGhentBelgium

Personalised recommendations