The Environment as a Stakeholder? A Fairness-Based Approach

Posted: 8 Feb 2005

See all articles by Robert A. Phillips

Robert A. Phillips

York University - Schulich School of Business

Joel Reichart

Independent; Berkeley College


Stakeholder theory is often unable to distinguish those individuals and groups that are stakeholders from those that are not. This problem of stakeholder identity has recently been addressed by linking stakeholder theory to a Rawlsian principle of fairness. To illustrate, the question of stakeholder status for the non-human environment is discussed. This essay criticizes a past attempt to ascribe stakeholder status to the non-human environment, which utilized a broad definition of the term "stakeholder." This paper then demonstrates how, despite the denial of stakeholder status, the environment is nonetheless accounted for on a fairness-based approach through legitimate organizational stakeholders. In addition, since stakeholder theory has never claimed to be a comprehensive ethical scheme, it is argued that sound reasons might exist for managers to consider their organization's impact on the environment that are not stakeholder-related.

Keywords: Natural environment, stakeholder, ethics

Suggested Citation

Phillips, Robert A. and Reichart, Joel and Reichart, Joel, The Environment as a Stakeholder? A Fairness-Based Approach. Available at SSRN:

Robert A. Phillips (Contact Author)

York University - Schulich School of Business ( email )

4700 Keele Street
Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3

Joel Reichart

Berkeley College ( email )

55 Rifle Camp Road
Woodlawn Park, NJ 07424
United States

Independent ( email )

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