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A stakeholder perspective on mission statements: an international empirical study

Gertjan van Nimwegen (Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Accounting and Information Management, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands)
Laury Bollen (Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Accounting and Information Management, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands)
Harold Hassink (Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Accounting and Information Management, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands)
Thomas Thijssens (Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Accounting and Information Management, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands)

International Journal of Organizational Analysis

ISSN: 1934-8835

Publication date: 4 July 2008

Abstract

Purpose

This study uses a stakeholder perspective to explain the content of mission statements, in particular the inclusion of stakeholder groups. The study uses stakeholder dependency theory and resource dependency theory to explain the content of mission statement. In line with this perspective, stakeholders in this study will be classified as either being resource providers, such as employees and customers, or non‐resource providers, such as the community and the environment. The primary aim of the study is to find evidence for the theoretical relationship between the importance of stakeholders to the company and the inclusion of stakeholder groups in the company's mission statement.

Design/methodology/approach

The use of a large dataset with 490 observations enables a multivariate analysis of mission statement content, focusing on country‐, industry‐, and company‐specific factors.

Findings

The study finds that stakeholder groups the company is more dependent on, are addressed in mission statements more frequently. In addition, the profile of an industry, legal origin and ownership concentration are found to be related with stakeholder inclusion in mission statements.

Research limitations/implications

The database used adopts a broad definition of a mission statement, as a result of which the study may also include documents such as vision statements. Additional factors might exist that could explain the inclusion of stakeholder groups in the mission statement. For example, Hope states that both legal origin and culture are important in explaining corporate disclosure. Therefore, literature on cultural dimensions by Hofstede and Schwartz might also be used as explanatory variables in future research. Finally, additional evidence on the industry classification developed in this study is required to further substantiate these results.

Practical implications

The observed differences in mission statement content with respect to stakeholder management signify the fact that the mission statement is not a standardized document which can simply be ignored by managers. Therefore, managers must be aware of the environment in which the company is situated, in order to approach the stakeholders which are most important to the organization. A failure to recognize and include essential stakeholders in the mission statement may be costly in the long run, particularly when competitors are better able to address these stakeholders.

Originality/value

This study adds to the existing stream of literature on mission statements by introducing the dependence of the company on the stakeholder as an explanatory factor for the inclusion of stakeholders in mission statements. Consequently, the study uses stakeholder dependency theory and resource dependency theory to explain the content of mission statement, rather than signaling theory. Furthermore, this is one of few empirical studies on mission statements that uses a large dataset with 490 observations, enabling a multivariate analysis of mission statement content.

Keywords

Citation

van Nimwegen, G., Bollen, L., Hassink, H. and Thijssens, T. (2008), "A stakeholder perspective on mission statements: an international empirical study", International Journal of Organizational Analysis, Vol. 16 No. 1/2, pp. 61-82. https://doi.org/10.1108/19348830810915505

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited