From Stakeholder Management to Stakeholder Accountability: Applying Habermasian Discourse Ethics to Accountability Research

Journal of Business Ethics 65 (3):251-267 (2006)
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Abstract

Confronted with mounting pressure to ensure accountability vis-à-vis customers, citizens and beneficiaries, organizational leaders need to decide how to choose and implement so-called accountability standards. Yet while looking for an appropriate standard, they often base their decisions on cost-benefit calculations, thus neglecting other important spheres of influence pertaining to more broadly defined stakeholder interests. We argue in this paper that, as a part of the strategic decision for a certain standard, management needs to identify and act according to the needs of all stakeholders. We contend that the creation of a dialogical understanding among affected stakeholders cannot be a mere outcome of applying certain accountability standards, but rather must be a necessary precondition for their use. This requires a stakeholder dialogue prior to making a choice. We outline such a discursive decision framework for accountability standards based on the Habermasian concept of communicative action and, in the final section, apply our conceptual framework to one of the most prominent accountability tools (AA 1000).

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