Who or what is a stakeholder? The role of legitimacy in identifying and managing stakeholder relationships
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This paper addresses one of the most contentious issues in the entire stakeholder theory debate - the question of who (or what) is a stakeholder. The concepts of legitimacy (Philips 2003; Suchman 1995) and stakeholder responsibility (Windsor 2002) are posited as central considerations. Some unacknowledged parallels between the stakeholder and public relations literatures are noted. An apparently small but highly significant revision to Freema's classic definition of a stakeholder (Freeman 1984) is proposed. A framework based on the notion of stakeholder responsibility is presented as a guide to help managers assess the legitimacy of potential stakeholders and, consequently, to identify who should be accorded stakeholder status.
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