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A ‘Names-and-Faces Approach’ to Stakeholder Identification and Salience: A Matter of Status

Abstract

Despite its increasing popularity across management disciplines, stakeholder theory holds an important shortcoming in terms of its guidance for understanding the heterogeneity of stakeholder interests, claims, and behavior toward firms. Specifically, scholars note the inadequacy of generic categories of stakeholders (e.g., customers, employees, shareholders, and suppliers) in providing a realistic portrait of the groups and individuals that interact with the firm, opening the theory to much criticism for a ‘simplistic’ and ‘meaningless’ stakeholder concept. In face of this challenge, recent research is pointing to social identity as a mechanism to refine our understanding of stakeholders as names-and-faces, however we argue that despite the advancements offered by the social identity approach, it too presents limitations in its ability to guide managers in prioritizing stakeholder claims. Building on these nascent efforts to offer much needed nuance to a theory of stakeholder identification and prioritization, this paper draws from new advances in the management literature and offers status as an attribute that helps explain and predict how managers accord attention to their various constituents. We set forth five propositions connecting stakeholder status to the attention stakeholders receive from managers. We argue that status is a superior attribute of stakeholder identification and prioritization because it (1) accounts for groups and individuals’ uniqueness within broad categories of stakeholders in a dynamic way, (2) reconciles the dual nature of stakeholders as holding simultaneously a social and an economic identity in their claim toward the firm, and (3) provides a plausible explanation of, and intuitive guidance to, how managers accord attention to their firm’s stakeholders. Implications and future directions for research complete this article.

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Notes

  1. https://www.cdp.net/en-US/Pages/HomePage.aspx and http://www.2020wob.com/. Information accessed October 12, 2015.

  2. https://www.benefitfocus.com/. Information accessed October 12, 2015.

  3. http://content.usatoday.com/communities/gameon/post/2011/08/tiger-woods-losing-another-corporate-sponsor-tag-heuer-spilt-part-ways-amicable/1#.VhviE_lVhHw. Information accessed October 12, 2015.

  4. http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2009-09-02/news/27643757_1_volkswagen-passenger-cars-car-market-beetle. Information accessed October 12, 2015.

  5. https://ycharts.com/companies/VLKPY/assets. Information accessed October 13, 2015.

  6. http://learnbonds.com/123414/amazon-com-inc-amzn-endorses-shopify-as-webstores-die/. Information accessed October 12, 2015.

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Perrault, E. A ‘Names-and-Faces Approach’ to Stakeholder Identification and Salience: A Matter of Status. J Bus Ethics 146, 25–38 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-015-2929-1

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Keywords

  • Stakeholder theory
  • Stakeholder management
  • Social identity
  • Stakeholder identification
  • Status