What Is a Stakeholder?
A stakeholder is a party that has an interest in a company and can either affect or be affected by the business. The primary stakeholders in a typical corporation are its investors, employees, customers, and suppliers.
- A stakeholder has a vested interest in a company and can either affect or be affected by a business' operations and performance.
- Typical stakeholders are investors, employees, customers, suppliers, communities, governments, or trade associations.
- An entity's stakeholders can be both internal or external to the organization.
Stakeholders can be internal or external to an organization. Internal stakeholders are people whose interest in a company comes through a direct relationship, such as employment, ownership, or investment.
External stakeholders are those who do not directly work with a company but are affected somehow by the actions and outcomes of the business. Suppliers, creditors, and public groups are all considered external stakeholders.
Example of an Internal Stakeholder
Investors are internal stakeholders who are significantly impacted by the associated concern and its performance. If, for example, a venture capital firm decides to invest $5 million in a technology startup in return for 10% equity and significant influence, the firm becomes an internal stakeholder of the startup.
The return on the venture capitalist firm's investment hinges on the startup's success or failure, meaning that the firm has a vested interest.
Example of an External Stakeholder
External stakeholders, unlike internal stakeholders, do not have a direct relationship with the company. Instead, an external stakeholder is normally a person or organization affected by the operations of the business. When a company goes over the allowable limit of carbon emissions, for example, the town in which the company is located is considered an external stakeholder because it is affected by the increased pollution.
Conversely, external stakeholders may also sometimes have a direct effect on a company without a clear link to it. The government, for example, is an external stakeholder. When the government initiates policy changes on carbon emissions, the decision affects the business operations of any entity with increased levels of carbon.
Problems With Stakeholders
A common problem that arises for companies with numerous stakeholders is that the various stakeholder interests may not align. In fact, the interests may be in direct conflict. For example, the primary goal of a corporation, from the perspective of its shareholders, is to maximize profits and enhance shareholder value. Since labor costs are unavoidable for most companies, a company may seek to keep these costs under tight control. This is likely to upset another group of stakeholders, its employees. The most efficient companies successfully manage the interests and expectations of all their stakeholders.
Stakeholders vs. Shareholders
Stakeholders are bound to a company by some type of vested interest, usually for the long term and for reasons of need. Meanwhile, a shareholder has a financial interest, but a shareholder can sell a stock and buy different stock or keep the proceeds in cash; they do not have a long-term need for the company and can get out at any time.
For example, if a company is performing poorly financially, the vendors in that company's supply chain might suffer if the company limits production and no longer uses its services. Similarly, employees of the company might lose their jobs. However, shareholders of the company can sell their stock and limit their losses.
What Are Examples of Stakeholders?
Examples of important stakeholders for a business include its shareholders, customers, suppliers, and employees. Some of these stakeholders, such as the shareholders and the employees, are internal to the business. Others, such as the business’s customers and suppliers, are external to the business but are nevertheless affected by the business’s actions. These days, it has become more common to talk about a broader range of external stakeholders, such as the government of the countries in which the business operates, or even the public at large.
Why Are Stakeholders Important?
Stakeholders are important for a number of reasons. For internal stakeholders, they are important because the business’s operations rely on their ability to work together toward the business’s goals. External stakeholders on the other hand can affect the business indirectly.
For instance, customers can change their buying habits, suppliers can change their manufacturing and distribution practices, and governments can modify laws and regulations. Ultimately, managing relationships with internal and external stakeholders is key to a business’s long-term success.
Are Stakeholders and Shareholders the Same?
Although shareholders are an important type of stakeholder, they are not the only stakeholders. Examples of other stakeholders include employees, customers, suppliers, governments, and the public at large. In recent years, there has been a trend toward thinking more broadly about who constitutes the stakeholders of a business.