Stakeholder Engagement, Discourse Ethics and Strategic Management

11 Pages Posted: 18 Jan 2010

See all articles by James Noland

James Noland

University of Richmond

Robert A. Phillips

York University - Schulich School of Business


The aim of this paper is to identify, review and assess two prominent recent trends in the literature on stakeholder engagement. Scholars in the first camp are referred to as Habermasians, owing to their reference and adherence to the work of the German philosopher most famous for elaborating on the concept of moral discourse. To these scholars, moral engagement is marked by specific conditions of communication which ensure that this communication is uncorrupted by power differences and strategic motivations. Others – those called here Ethical Strategists – argue that the engagement of stakeholders must be integral to a firm's strategy if it is to achieve real success. This camp is characterized by scholars contending that the distinction between strategy and morality is not only unfortunate, but logically unnecessary. They hold that good strategy properly understood must encompass what are typically recognized as moral concerns, because the very purpose of the firm and the capitalist system within which it operates is, when viewed rightly, the creation of value for all stakeholders. While recognizing the important contributions made by the Habermasians to the conversation about stakeholder engagement, it is concluded that, owing to the confluence of conceptual and practical concerns, the Ethical Strategists' position is the more attractive.

Suggested Citation

Noland, James and Phillips, Robert A., Stakeholder Engagement, Discourse Ethics and Strategic Management. International Journal of Management Reviews, Vol. 12, Issue 1, pp. 39-49, March 2010, Available at SSRN: or

James Noland (Contact Author)

University of Richmond ( email )

28 Westhampton Way
Richmond, VA 23173
United States

Robert A. Phillips

York University - Schulich School of Business ( email )

4700 Keele Street
Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3

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