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Stakeholder Theory Classification: A Theoretical and Empirical Evaluation of Definitions

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  • Samantha Miles

    () (Oxford Brookes University)

Abstract

Abstract Stakeholder theory is widely accepted but elementary aspects remain indeterminate as the term ‘stakeholder’ is an essentially contested concept (Miles, J Bus Ethics 108:285–298, 2012; Mitchell, Organ Stud 33:1407–1411, 2012), being variously describable, internally complex and open in character (Gallie, Proc Aristot Soc 56:167–198, 1956). Such contestability is highly problematic for theory development and empirical testing. The extent of essential contestability, previously unknown, is demonstrated in this paper through a bounded systematic review of 593 different stakeholder theory definitions. As an essentially contested concept, the solution does not lie in a universal stakeholder definition, but in debating the boundaries of stakeholder identification. To this end, this paper presents the first major attempt at sorting, filtering and ordering stakeholder theory and stakeholder definitions to produce a comprehensive, multi-dimensional classification of stakeholder theory. The constructs of the classification model juxtapose existing stakeholder theories and contributions from across the multi-contextual applications of stakeholder theory, thereby providing an invaluable overview of what we know about stakeholder theory in one model. The classification model is then tested with positive results. The paper concludes with a comprehensive discussion of the implications of classification stakeholder theory definitions, which has for future research.

Suggested Citation

  • Samantha Miles, 2017. "Stakeholder Theory Classification: A Theoretical and Empirical Evaluation of Definitions," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 142(3), pages 437-459, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:jbuset:v:142:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s10551-015-2741-y
    DOI: 10.1007/s10551-015-2741-y
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    2. Jaime-Andres Correa-Garcia & Maria-Antonia Garcia-Benau & Emma Garcia-Meca, 2018. "CSR Communication Strategies of Colombian Business Groups: An Analysis of Corporate Reports," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 10(5), pages 1-19, May.
    3. Christian Felber & Vanessa Campos & Joan R. Sanchis, 2019. "The Common Good Balance Sheet, an Adequate Tool to Capture Non-Financials?," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 11(14), pages 1-23, July.
    4. Brueckner, Martin & Eabrasu, Marian, 2018. "Pinning down the social license to operate (SLO): The problem of normative complexity," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 59(C), pages 217-226.
    5. Schembri, Joe & Tang, Yee Kwan & Fletcher, Margaret & Dimitratos, Pavlos, 2019. "How do European trade promotion organisations manage their stakeholders?," International Business Review, Elsevier, vol. 28(6), pages 1-1.
    6. Gupta, Shivam & Chen, Haozhe & Hazen, Benjamin T. & Kaur, Sarabjot & Santibañez Gonzalez, Ernesto D.R., 2019. "Circular economy and big data analytics: A stakeholder perspective," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 144(C), pages 466-474.
    7. Dang, Quyen Thao & Jasovska, Pavlina & Rammal, Hussain Gulzar, 2020. "International business-government relations: The risk management strategies of MNEs in emerging economies," Journal of World Business, Elsevier, vol. 55(1).
    8. Hydzulkifli Hashim Omar* & Abubakar Yusuf Sanyinna, 2018. "Administrative Challenges of WAQF Institution in the Contemporary World: Future Prospects," The Journal of Social Sciences Research, Academic Research Publishing Group, pages 294-299:6.

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