Stakeholder theory, contrasting Shareholder Theory, states that a company owes a responsibility to a wider group of stakeholders, other than just shareholders. A stakeholder is defined as any person/group which can affect/be affected by the actions of a business. It includes employees, customers, suppliers, creditors and even the wider community and competitors.
Edward Freeman, the original proposer of the stakeholder theory, recognised it as an important element of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), a concept which recognises the responsibilities of corporations in the world today, whether they be economic, legal, ethical or even philanthropic. Nowadays, some of the world’s largest corporations claim to have CSR at the centre of their corporate strategy. Whilst there are many genuine cases of companies with a “conscience”, many others exploit CSR as a good means of PR to improve their image and reputation but ultimately fail to put their words into action