Business Ethics and Stakeholder Analysis

by Kenneth E. Goodpaster
Business Ethics Quarterly ()


Much has been written about stakeholder analysis as a process by which to introduce ethical values into management decision- making. This paper takes a critical look at the assumptions behind this idea, in an effort to understand better the meaning of ethica] management decisions. A distinction is made between stakeholder analysis and stakeholder synthesis. The two most natural kinds of stakeholder synthesis are then defined and discussed: strategic and multi-fiduciary. Paradoxically, the former appears to yield business without ethics and the latter appears to yield ethics without business. The paper concludes by suggesting that a third approach to stakeholder thinking needs to be developed, one that avoids the paradox just men* tioned and that clarifies for managers (and directors) the legitimate role of ethical considerations in decision-making.

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