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Five Challenges to Stakeholder Theory: A Report on Research in Progress

Stakeholder Management

ISBN: 978-1-78714-408-8, eISBN: 978-1-78714-407-1

Publication date: 23 May 2017


This chapter suggests that there are at least five main challenges to the development of stakeholder theory as it currently stands. We need more research on understanding what counts as the total performance of a business; accounting for stakeholders rather than accounting only for investors; explaining real stakeholder behavior; formulating smart public policy given stakeholder theory; and rethinking the basics of ethical theory. The chapter explains the issues involved in each challenge and suggests ways to meet the challenge. It is a preliminary report of research in progress as well as a blueprint for how others may join the conversation to develop a more useful stakeholder theory.




I have a number of co-authors and colleagues who have helped me with these ideas, and I have drawn heavily on a number of joint papers with them. I would like to thank them for permission to develop these ideas in the current form. In particular, thanks to Tom Jones of University of Washington, Michelle Greenwood of Monash University, Harry van Buren of University of New Mexico, Ron Mitchell of Texas Tech University, Adrian Keevil of PlusTick Partners, Rob Phillips of University of Richmond, and Bidhan Parmar at Darden. Portions of the Introduction and the section on Ethical Challenges are from Freeman (2009), copyright held by the author.


Freeman, R.E. (2017), "Five Challenges to Stakeholder Theory: A Report on Research in Progress", Stakeholder Management (Business and Society 360, Vol. 1), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 1-20.



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