Regarding Marginal Stakeholders
Contribution to Book
Emerald Group Publishing Ltd.
Stakeholders are typically described as those who may affect or be affected by the actions of a firm. The purpose of this chapter is to present an argument that stakeholder theory should pay specific regard to what I term marginal stakeholders, that is, parties affected by a firm’s actions but who nevertheless have no actual or foreseeable influence to shape its strategic goals. Several key proponents of stakeholder theory maintain that these groups are not legitimate stakeholders and therefore do not warrant consideration. For example, marginal groups are routinely excluded from discussions of stakeholder fairness. Alternatively, theorists presume that advocates with leverage will protect these groups, or appeals to human rights will be sufficient. In contrast, I contend that there are cases where the firm has benefitted, but identifiable and discrete stakeholders have been negatively affected by corporate action in an environment where rights are ignored or there is no significant legal recourse. Drawing on foundational literature on fairness and insights from social psychology, I conclude that fully realized stakeholder theory means that a corporation has to consider its duties to all those affected by the impact of a firm, including the powerless.