Words-worth: Stakeholder

Gone are the days when a manager could safely assume that a 'stakeholder' was a minor character in a Dracula movie.

Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

These days, it means someone who may not own a company but has an interest in its fortunes and so has to be taken into consideration: employees, customers and neighbours. A 'stake' has long had two meanings. From Anglo-Saxon times it was a length of wood used, say, in burning heretics or dealing firmly with the undead. Since the 1500s it has also meant a sum of money put up to be taken by the winner of a race or a gamble. A 'stakeholder', first recorded in 1815, was a trusted third party who held the stake until the contest was decided. 'Stakeholder' in our sense (often used in contrast to 'stockholder' or 'shareholder') was coined in the 1960s but is associated with R Edward Freeman, author of Strategic Management: A stakeholder approach (1984). Freeman is an expert in business ethics, as most managers will have to become. 'Stakeholder' is an idea that is not going to lie down in its coffin.

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