Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 140, Issue 1, pp 43–64 | Cite as

Is Fair Treatment Enough? Augmenting the Fairness-Based Perspective on Stakeholder Behaviour



Fairness and justice are core issues in stakeholder theory. Although such considerations receive more attention in the ‘normative’ branch of the stakeholder literature, they have critical implications for ‘instrumental’ stakeholder theory as well. In research in the instrumental vein, although the position has seldom been articulated in significant detail, a stakeholder’s inclination to take action against the firm or, conversely, to cooperate with it, is often taken to be a function of its perceptions concerning the fairness or unfairness (or equity or inequity) of the treatment it receives in its relationship with the firm. Thus, from various works in this domain can be distilled what might be termed a ‘fairness-based perspective on stakeholder behaviour’. This perspective, as it currently stands, assumes a high degree of homogeneity in stakeholders’ responses to fair, unfair, or munificent treatment by the firm. This supposition is itself typically based on a presumption that stakeholders consistently and uniformly adhere to norms of equity and reciprocity in their relationships with firms. However, research developments in equity theory and social exchange theory suggest that such assumptions are likely untenable. Accordingly, in this work, after outlining the fairness-based perspective on stakeholder behaviour, I undertake to augment it by presenting propositions concerning the possible influences of stakeholders’ equity preferences and exchange ideologies on their propensities to sanction or support the firm. Incorporating these stakeholder traits into the fairness-based perspective should enhance the predictive validity of its propositions concerning stakeholder behaviour in response to fairness or unfairness in the firm–stakeholder relationship.


Equity sensitivity Exchange ideology Justice Reciprocity Stakeholder mobilization Stakeholder theory 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Sprott School of BusinessCarleton UniversityOttawaCanada

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