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Stewardship Theory: Approaches and Perspectives

Accountability and Social Accounting for Social and Non-Profit Organizations

ISBN: 978-1-78441-005-6, eISBN: 978-1-78441-004-9

Publication date: 27 November 2014


This article focuses on the lesser-used notion of stewardship and stewardship-ism. Stewardship is a concept that has inspired the activities of several organizations whose mission is to preserve, protect and maintain natural, social and economic assets for the benefit of stakeholders and communities. As observed by Contrafatto and Bebbington (2013), stewardship has some resonance with current policy agendas that attend to the issues related to sustainable development, corporate social responsibility and accountability. Most of the existing works on stewardship provide several perspectives with the focus being either on normative foundations of stewardship or on its organizational and managerial implications. In particular, the stewardship-related literature offers a range of conceptions and approaches ranking from a relatively narrow view of the resources, sources and time frame of stewardship to very broad specification. In this article, the management, organization and accounting literature is analysed to propose a map of current theorizing on stewardship. In particular, drawing on the methodological approach adopted by Lowndes (1996), four theoretical vignettes have been proposed to illustrate different variants and approaches in stewardship framework. Each vignette provides a set of conceptual constructs, ideas and views to understand stewardship and stewardship-inspired behaviour. The variety of approaches/perspectives on stewardship, as illustrated from the analysis undertaken in this article, provides an opportunity for deeper theory-based understanding of social and organizational dynamics. In particular, it is argued that the richness of perspectives, focus and levels of analysis could offer insights to conceptualize, see and make sense of some of the challenges that are posed by a desire for promoting transition towards more sustainable ways of organizing our society.




I would like to thank John Ferguson, Sara Moggi, the two anonymous reviewers and especially the guest editors, Ericka Costa, Lee D. Parker and Michele Andreaus, for their advice and helpful comments on earlier drafts of this article.


Contrafatto, M. (2014), "Stewardship Theory: Approaches and Perspectives", Accountability and Social Accounting for Social and Non-Profit Organizations (Advances in Public Interest Accounting, Vol. 17), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 177-196.



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