What are stakeholders?
The concept of stakeholders is complicated by different meanings and uses dependent upon both context and association. In traditional usage a stakeholder is a third party who temporarily holds money or property while the issue of ownership is being resolved between two other parties e.g a bet on a race, litigation on ownership of property.
The Concise Oxford Dictionary describes a stakeholder as a person with an interest or concern in something, especially. a business. This definition is somewhat unhelpful as it takes no account of those whose only interests are directly opposed to those of the organization and would make cooperation between them an absurdity.
The definition postulated by Post, Preston, and Sachs amalgamates the idea of contributors, beneficiaries, risk takers, voluntary and involuntary parties thus indicating that there is mutuality between stakeholders and organizations.
“The stakeholders in a corporation are the individuals and constituencies that contribute, either voluntarily or involuntarily, to its wealth-creating capacity and activities, and that are therefore its potential beneficiaries and/or risk bearers”
If we settle on stakeholders being the parties that contribute to an organization’s wealth-creation capacity and benefit from it, we cannot dismiss all the other interested parties because they don’t qualify as stakeholder as we have defined it above. Their influence needs to be managed. For example
- It is important to win support from the media as bad press can destroy reputations
- It is important to keep co-workers on your side as their cooperation might be essential to your success
- It is important not to alienate other managers as they might limit the availability of resources you need
- It is important to build rapport with Trade Associations, Unions and other organizations from which you might need help
More information about stakeholders and interested parties may be found in Chapters 11 & 13 of the ISO 9000 Quality System Handbook 7th Edition