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Business Ethics Quarterly

Volume 12, Issue 2, April 2002

Eric W. Orts, Alan Strudler
Pages 215-233
DOI: 10.2307/3857811

The Ethical and Environmental Limits of Stakeholder Theory

We argue that though stakeholder theory has much to recommend it, particularly as a heuristic for thinking about business firms properly as involving the economic interests of other groups beyond those of the shareholders or other equity owners, the theory is limited by its focus on the interests of human participants in business enterprise. Stakeholder theory runs into intractable philosophical difficulty in providing credible ethical principles for business managers in dealing with some topics, such as the natural environment, that do not directly involve human beings within a business firm or who engage in transactions with a firm. Corporate decision-making must include an appreciation of these ethical values even though they cannot be captured in stakeholder theory.

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