Stakeholders and Corporate Social Responsibility: An Ownership Perspective

Sustainability, Stakeholder Governance, and Corporate Social Responsibility

ISBN: 978-1-78756-316-2, eISBN: 978-1-78756-315-5

ISSN: 0742-3322

Publication date: 10 August 2018


We argue that the stakeholder and CSR literature can benefit from more systematic thinking about ownership. We discuss general notions of ownership in the economics and legal literature and the entrepreneurial notion of ownership we have developed in prior work. On this basis, we argue that stakeholder theory needs to deal more systematically with ownership as an economic function that can be exercised with greater or lesser ability, may be complementary to other economic functions, and works better when assigned to homogeneous groups. Some stakeholder groups are likely to lack what we call “ownership competence,” even if they have made relationship-specific investments, in part because of a diversity of interests. We also discuss CSR from the perspective of ownership and support Friedman’s original position, but with a twist. The point of Friedman’s paper is not that firms “should” maximize profits, but that managerial pursuit of “socially responsible” activities in a discretionary way imposes costs on owners. We suggest this problem is exacerbated with entrepreneurial managers who can devise new ways to prop up their self-interested actions with new creative CSR initiatives.



Foss, N.J. and Klein, P.G. (2018), "Stakeholders and Corporate Social Responsibility: An Ownership Perspective", Sustainability, Stakeholder Governance, and Corporate Social Responsibility (Advances in Strategic Management, Vol. 38), Emerald Publishing Limited, pp. 17-35.

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