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Stakeholder” is used in commerce to describe any party who has an interest in a business or enterprise.  Traditionally, stakeholders in a corporation are shareholders, employees, customers and suppliers. 

As the idea of corporate social responsibility has grown, the concept of stakeholder has expanded to include the local community, government and various trade associations affiliated with the company.  These stakeholders are sometimes referred to as secondary stakeholders, because they don’t benefit from a direct interest with the company.

Problems arise when different stakeholders have competing interests. The more stakeholders there are, the greater the chances there are of having competing stakeholder interests.  For instance, the owners and shareholders of a business have the primary interest of maximizing profits.  Managers have this goal too.  One way to maximize profits is to reduce the employees’ wages and salaries.  Reducing wages and salaries may make the owners happy, but the managers and the employees won’t like reduced pay.  The government, as a secondary stakeholder won’t like it either, because reduced pay means lower tax revenues.

The most successful companies are the ones that do a good job of balancing all the various stakeholders' interests . 

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