Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


Stakeholder politics

June 2009

Robert Boutilier. Greenleaf. 248 pages. Hardback. £24.95

At last, a book that gets to the heart of stakeholder issues: the dynamics of power. At least that’s what I expected when I saw ‘politics’ in the title. In fact, the book turns out to be less about ‘politics as power’ and more about stakeholders as networks of relationships.

If that was the first surprise, the second is that it takes until page 96 before stakeholder theory is introduced. Academics may also be perturbed by the absence of any reference to such classic theories as the power-legitimacy-urgency model of Mitchell, Agle and Wood.

But perhaps this is harsh. The cover flap describes this as a ‘how to’ book, so it must be aimed at the practitioner rather than the scholar. Through this lens, it scores better. The style is accessible. The introduction works well as an executive summary.

The book has 11 sections, including an introduction to sustainable development, several chapters on social capital and performance measurement, two case studies and takes on stakeholder mapping. There is a good reference list and copious endnotes for the studious reader.

Despite its target market, the book is dense and it’s hard to imagine a busy manager reading it cover to cover. The modelling and network mapping, which feels a bit like something out of a PhD, will also take some getting into.

However, there are many insights to be gained and enough ‘tools’ to take the discussion beyond the superficial mapping stage it’s been at for so many years now.

Wayne Visser

Wayne Visser | Global | Stakeholder involvement


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