Stakeholders, the Environment and Society

Stakeholders, the Environment and Society

New Perspectives in Research on Corporate Sustainability series

Edited by Sanjay Sharma and Mark Starik

The role of stakeholders is integral to corporate sustainability as society increasingly demands that corporations play a role in achieving environmental objectives in addition to building shareholder wealth. In the first book to gather cutting-edge research on the interactions between stakeholders and organizations within the context of corporate sustainability, the contributors to this volume provide a diversity of perspectives from North America, Europe, and Oceania.

Chapter 6: Who Speaks for the Trees? Invoking an Ethic of Care to Give Voice to the Silent Stakeholder

Linda M. Sama, Stephanie A. Welcomer and Virginia W. Gerde

Subjects: business and management, corporate social responsibility, management and sustainability, economics and finance, environmental economics, environment, corporate social responsibility, environmental economics, environmental management


Linda M. Sama, Stephanie A. Welcomer and Virginia W. Gerde INTRODUCTION In response to the accelerating degradation of global ecological and attendant social systems, theorists, practitioners and communities have called for sustainable approaches to human and non-human modes of organizing. Most visible among these approaches is the World Commission on Environment and Development’s (WCED) definition of sustainable development as, ‘development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’ (1987, p. 8). To embody this powerful and potentially far-reaching organizing principle, the task for societies is to migrate sustainable development from the abstract meta-level to levels of practice. As DiMaggio and Powell (1983) note, organizations are the dominant institutions of our time, and therefore play an especially important role in the furtherance of such initiatives as sustainable development. Intrinsic to this furtherance is the integration of sustainable concepts into firms’ ethos. The authors suggest that this integration is a natural extension of stakeholder theory, contingent upon development of a normative core giving voice and legitimacy to the natural environment. To develop this approach, stakeholder management is explicated as normatively grounded in an ethic of care, thereby shifting the nature of stakeholder identification and salience (Mitchell, Agle and Wood, 1997) from adversarial to dialogic. For purposes of this chapter, the ‘natural environment’ is referred to as the ecological system in which organizations (or networks of organizations) operate, from which they derive resources, for which they bear certain responsibilities, and...

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