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As Stakeholder [ steɪkhoʊldə ] (dt. "Partners") or to be entitled a person or group will be referred to, which has a legitimate interest in the course or outcome of a process or project. In business administration, stakeholder is translated as a stakeholder group.


The term stakeholder comes from English . “Stake” can be translated with commitment , share or claim , expectation , “holder” with owner or owner . The stakeholder is therefore someone whose commitment is at stake and who therefore has an interest in the weal and woe of this commitment. In a figurative sense, “stakeholder” is used nowadays not only for people who have actually done something, but for everyone who has an interest in the course or outcome of a process or project; for example customers or employees.

Ideas similar to modern stakeholder theory can be traced back to longstanding philosophical discussions about the nature of civil society and the relationships between individuals. The term “stakeholder” in its current meaning was first used in 1963 in an internal memorandum at the Stanford Research Institute . Subsequently, “an abundance” of definitions and theories was developed.

An expression of German origin that encompasses all aspects of the term “stakeholder” does not exist in the literature. The approximations used are claimants or interested parties and those affected . In the case of projects, one speaks of interest groups , interested parties (see ISO 9001 ), beneficiaries or stakeholder groups .

The term “stakeholder” can be used in a narrow or a rather broad definition. The original narrow definition by the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) described stakeholders as “those groups without whose support the organization would cease to exist”. Here, only shareholders , employees, customers, suppliers, creditors and society are listed as stakeholder groups that are essential for the survival of the company. In addition, this definition is based on a one-sided influence exerted on the company by the stakeholders. However, it has been recognized that there is mutual influence between the stakeholders and the company. Thus, the stakeholders of an organization can be defined as “any group or individual who can affect or is affected by the achievement of the firm's objectives” or “any group or individual who can affect or is affected by the achievement of the firm's objectives”. This definition extends the circle of stakeholders to include competitors, the media, trade unions, authorities, critical interest groups, municipalities, politics, etc., i.e. to external groups that also have claims on the company.

Differentiation interest group

An interest group is a loose association of several people who usually have common interests and pursue them. In contrast to the interest group , with which the interest group is often equated, interest groups are not organized and only define themselves through their political, economic, religious or ethnic commonalities, for example. Such groups can form associations in order to be able to assert their interests more efficiently through lobbying .

A company's stakeholders

Internal and external stakeholders of a company

The principle of the stakeholder is at the same time the basis and the extension of the shareholder value approach widespread in business administration .

In contrast to the shareholder value principle, which places the needs and expectations of the shareholders of an organization (e.g. the shareholders in a stock corporation ) at the center of interest, the principle of the stakeholders tries to understand the organization in its entire socio-economic context (the Environment ) and to reconcile the needs of the different stakeholder groups. In addition to so-called Customer Relationship Management (CRM), which only deals with the relationships between an organization and its customers, the principle of Stakeholder Relationship Management (SRM) goes much further, as it tries to improve the relationships with the organization to bring everyone or their most important stakeholder groups into harmony. This is called the “incentive-contribution balance” between the endogenous uncertainty environment (suppliers, trade, consumers, etc.) and the exogenous uncertainties (socio-cultural, political, legal, technological, ecological) towards the organization.

In addition to the owners (shareholders, members), the employees (up to the managers , e.g. entitlement to employment and security), the customers or beneficiaries (e.g. entitlement to quality and reliability), the suppliers are considered stakeholders , the capital markets (including lenders) as well as the state (e.g. entitlement to taxpayers' money, environmental protection), nature (raw material supplier, receiving medium for waste) and the public (parties, associations, churches, media, etc.). The market stakeholders can be sorted according to the procurement market (suppliers, employees, investors) and the sales market (customers, competition).

State, nature and the public are so - called non - market stakeholders . The stakeholder approach describes capital, labor, procurement and sales markets as market groups and relationships (performance and consideration). The stakeholder groups can also be divided into groups from the immediate environment of the company (employees, suppliers, customers, etc.), who are directly affected by the actions of the organization, and groups from the wider environment, i.e. politicians (e.g. municipalities ), Non-governmental organizations (NGOs), individual citizens, etc. that perceive the indirect effects of corporate activity. In this definition, competitors are, so to speak, between the closer and wider environment, as they are not the direct goal of the organizational activities, but feel their effects mediated through the market mechanism.

Theory and practice do not have a uniform idea of ​​who should be considered as a stakeholder at all. One possible delimitation criterion is the exclusive consideration of stakeholder groups on the viability of the organization. Thus, investors , but also customers , employees and suppliers must be named with certainty . At most, the state could also be named which, for example, enables economic activity at all by providing public goods (e.g. security, education) and the infrastructure.

Depending on the point of view, the importance of the various groups and thus the orientation of the organization towards them is controversial. This is precisely where the challenge for top management lies. A large number of authors have provided appropriate concepts to cope with this. Freeman's book Strategic Management was probably of paramount importance . A Stakeholder Approach , which appeared in 1984. Other important writings were also written in the recent past. So z. B. Mitchell, Agle and Wood (1997) provide a closed approach for identifying and prioritizing stakeholder groups. Accordingly, power, legitimation and time urgency are the relevant criteria. Rowley (1997) tries to gain knowledge from the theory of social networks.

Overall, there seems to be at least one consensus in the theoretical debate that the power of a stakeholder group is decisive for stakeholder management. This is often argued with the resource dependency theory, which is based on authors such. B. Jeffrey Pfeffer declines.

In information management, stakeholders can also be differentiated into primary, secondary and key stakeholders (classification according to degree of influence and degree of effectiveness):

  • Primary stakeholders: high degree of influence; low efficiency
  • Secondary stakeholders: low level of influence; low efficiency
  • Key stakeholders: low to high degree of influence; High efficiency

Stakeholder in system development

The development of a system (e.g. a computer system ) has the goal of satisfying the needs of several people, groups, institutions or documents and sets of rules (e.g. legal texts), whereby the needs and demands are very different, also contradicting and contradicting , could be. All of these people and institutions are called stakeholders. Stakeholders are used for abstraction, in that a stakeholder represents the summary of all people with the same interests and the same view of the system.

The definition of the term stakeholder is essentially the same as that of the project participant in DIN 69901-5 .

Stakeholders or project participants are all persons, institutions and documents who are affected in any way by the development and operation of a system. This also includes people who are not involved in system development, but who use the new system, keep it in operation or train it, for example.

Stakeholders are the information providers for goals, requirements and boundary conditions for a system or product to be developed.

Stakeholders in project management

According to the definition according to ISO 10006 , stakeholders of a project are all people who have an interest in the project or are affected by it in any way.

A distinction is made between active and passive stakeholders. Active stakeholders work directly on the project (e.g. team members) or are directly affected by the project (e.g. customers, suppliers, company management). Usually active stakeholders are structured according to the following groups in the project environment analysis:

  • project Manager
  • Project staff (core team and extended project team)
  • Customers, users
  • Client
  • Sponsors, power and specialist promoters

Passive stakeholders are only indirectly affected by the project implementation or the project effects (interest groups, residents in a construction project, family members of the project staff, associations, etc.).

The distinction between active and passive stakeholders is used to structure the various stakeholders and thus supports the identification process. Then the importance for the project is determined via the stakeholder analysis. The factors influence on the project (power) and attitude to the project (goals) are examined. The result of the stakeholder analysis is the cornerstone for the communication plan.

In 2012, Howard Schultz , the CEO of Starbucks , advocated giving greater consideration to the communities in which a company operates as stakeholders:

“It is no longer enough to just consider the interests of customers, employees and shareholders. As entrepreneurs in this world, it is our responsibility - even our duty - to bring benefits to the communities in which we do business. For example, by helping to improve the quality of education, income, health care, safety and the overall daily life of citizens. This also includes people's future prospects. […] Politicians […] are unable to meet the needs of their citizens and stabilize the fluctuating economy. In this situation, private organizations have to step in. [...] We have to use the same creativity and the same resources for our environment that we use for our products. "


  • R. Edward Freeman, Alexander Moutchnik (2013): Stakeholder management and CSR: questions and answers. In: UmweltWirtschaftsForum , Springer Verlag, Vol. 21, No. 1.
  • Thomas Beschorner, Alexander Brink (Ed.): Stakeholder Management and Ethics. In: Journal for Business and Business Ethics (zfwu). Special issue. 3/5/2004, ISSN  1439-880X , ISSN  1862-0043
  • Sonja Eilmann, Frank D. Behrend, Raimo Hübner, Erwin Weitlaner: Interest groups / interested parties. In: Michael Gessler, Society for Project Management (Hrsg.): Kompetenzbasierter Projektmanagement , Vol. 1, pp. 67–97. Nuremberg 2011, ISBN 978-3-924841-40-9
  • F. Figge, S. Schaltegger: What is Stakeholder Value? From buzzword to measurement. University of Lüneburg / Pictet / in cooperation with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), Lüneburg / Geneva / Paris 2000 CSM Lüneburg (PDF file; 783 kB)
  • RE Freeman: Strategic Management. A stakeholder approach . Pitman, 1984.
  • RE Freeman: The Stakeholder Approach Revisited. (PDF file; 341 kB) In: Zeitschrift für Wirtschafts- und Unternehmensethik (zfwu) . 3/5/2004, pp. 228-241, ISSN  1439-880X , ISSN  1862-0043
  • Robert Gärtner: Comprehensive overview of the stakeholder literature from 1932–2006; The influence of stakeholder groups on the strategy process: channeling emergence using the example of external stakeholders. Diplomica Verlag 2009, ISBN 978-3-8366-7651-9
  • Ronald K. Mitchell, Bradley R. Agle, Donna J. Wood: Towards a theory of stakeholder identification and salience. Defining the principles of who and what really counts . In: Academy of Management Review . tape 4/22 , 1997, pp. 853-886 .
  • R. Philips: Stakeholder Theory and Organizational Ethics. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2003.
  • S. Sachs & E. Rühli: Stakeholders Matter: A New Paradigm for Strategy in Society. Cambridge Univ. Pr., 2011

Individual evidence

  1. Pons large dictionary English, in Casio EX-word EW-G6000C, electronic dictionary for German, English, French and Latin.
  2. ^ A b Sonja Eilmann, Frank Behrend, Raimo Hübner, Erwin Weitlander: Interest groups / interested parties . In: Michael Gessler (Ed.): Competence-based project management . 4th edition. tape 1 . German Society for Project Management , Nuremberg 2011, ISBN 978-3-924841-40-9 , p. 71 .
  3. a b c Alex Murdock: Stakeholders . In: Helmut K. Anheier, Stefan Toepler (eds.): International Encyclopedia of Civil Society . doi: 10.1007 / 978-0-387-93996-4_154 .
  4. RF Stewart, JK Allen, J. M Cavender: The Strategic Plan , LRPS report no. 168. Long Range Planning Service, Menlo Park: Stanford Research Institute.
  5. RW Puyt, FB Lie, FJ Graaf: Contagious ideas and cognitive artefacts: the SWOT Analysis evolution in business . BAM2017 Conference Proceedings, 2017.
  6. ^ Bidhan L. Parmar, R. Edward Freeman, Jeffrey S. Harrison, Andrew C. Wicks, Simone de Colle, Lauren Purnell: Stakeholder theory: the state of the Art . In: The Academy of Management Annals , June 2010, doi: 10.1080 / 19416520.2010.495581 .
  7. ^ RE Freeman: Strategic Management. A stakeholder approach . Pitman, 1984, p. 31 .
  8. ^ RE Freeman: Strategic Management. A stakeholder approach . Pitman, 1984, pp. 31f. .
  9. ^ RE Freeman: Strategic Management. A stakeholder approach . Pitman, 1984, p. 25 .
  10. ^ RE Freeman: Strategic Management. A stakeholder approach . Pitman, 1984, pp. 46f. .
  11. Ronald K. Mitchell, Bradley R. Agle, Donna J. Wood: Towards a theory of stakeholder identification and salience. Defining the principles of who and what really counts . In: Academy of Management Review . tape 4/22 , 1997, pp. 853-886 .
  12. responsibility. The new capitalism begins on the doorstep . In:, January 25, 2012, accessed on February 23, 2012.