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Post secular reflections on the value of the stakeholder approach in business

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-08, 20:30 authored by Fabio PetitoFabio Petito, Gherado Girardi
The business strategy literature considers two types of corporate objectives or, as companies like to call them, 'missions', namely the shareholder and stakeholder approaches. According to the shareholder approach, companies exist to maximize the return for shareholders, and all other stakeholders (workers, managers, customers, suppliers, etc.) are instrumental in achieving this purpose. On the other hand, according to the stakeholder approach (in its more communitarian form), companies exist to benefit all stakeholders (including the shareholders, though, unlike for the shareholder approach, these are not given priority over other stakeholders). As one would expect, and as Naughton et al (1995) have pointed out, the notion of pursuing the common good in business is far more consistent with the stakeholder approach than with the shareholder approach. We argue that the case for the stakeholder approach, which – in its communitarian form – embodies the common good in a business context, is strengthened by recognising that we live in a postsecular predicament where many of the secular certainties of modernity are questioned in favour of approaches which draw on the resources of religious traditions. The growing body of literature on postsecularism discusses the normative implications for modern societies of living in an era where, contrary to the prediction of secularization, Jürgen Habermas argues that the moral intuitions of religions and spiritualties becomes important resources to cure the pathologies of modernization, including the crisis of an individualistic system of relations which prevents the construction of real and strong communities. Given the individualism and the secular frame which we argue to be inherent in the shareholder approach, in contrast with the genuine sense of community and openness to transcendence inherent in the stakeholder approach, our philosophical argument strengthens the case for the stakeholder approach as the preferable approach to corporate mission and identity in our contemporary, post-secular societies.


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Globalisation for the Common Good Initiative Journal




Globalisation for the Common Good Initiative

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  • International Relations Publications

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