The usefulness of the stakeholder theory in an analysis of the Internet-impacted business environment of contemporary organizations.

Janusz Wielki, Ph.D.


The business environment in which every organization operates and the changes taking place in it are extremely important elements of an organization’s success. It is a collection of numerous entities, factors and forces which are more or less predictable in their behavior and which give an organization a chance to establish a competitive advantage and to develop further development. Conversely, these entities can also threaten the existence of an organization. As a result, the ability of an organization to analyze, understand and assess its business environment and the associated dynamics is essential.

As the contemporary business and economic reality becomes more and more complicated and decreasingly unambiguous, as compared to before the wide scale use of the Internet, an analysis of the business environment as conducted in the traditional way and also operating in this context in typical categories such as suppliers, customers or competitors, decreasingly fits in with the emerging new reality. The dynamics of the changes taking place are so big and the state of belonging to the above mentioned groups is so fluid and imprecise that it has become necessary to look at the forces influencing organizations through their business environment in a far wider and unconventional way. Additionally the whole “picture” is complicated by various entities which have either emerged with the development of the electronic space or have grown in power in the new reality.

This new marker situation provides an opportunity for analysis using the stakeholder theory, with considerations in its scope, beyond “traditional” stakeholders, entities and forces operating in developing around the Internet electronic space (understood as a global computer network based on the TCP/IP protocols). There are numerous important aspects which determine its usefulness and accuracy with reference to the contemporary economic and business reality. They include such issues as utilization, in the context of entities influencing functioning of organizations; a very broad-ranging and flexible notion of “stakeholders”, and a holistic view of an organization and its business environment connected with conducting an analysis from the systems theory point of view.

The paper is composed of four parts. In the first part an overview of the situation connected with the changes taking place in the business environment of organizations as a result of the Internet’s arrival within the contemporary economy is provided. The next part is focused on a review of the most common approaches used to analyze an organization’s business environment and the reasons for a particular usefulness of the stakeholder theory in this context. The following part is the core of this paper. It is devoted to the utilization of the stakeholder approach in the analysis of the Internet-impacted business environment of contemporary enterprises. First, a brief overview of its development and areas of utilization in management are provided. Also, a definition of stakeholders is proposed, in the context of the analysis conducted in the paper. Next, a review is made of the most important groups of stakeholders from the organization’s point of view. In this context, particular attention is focused on SIGs (special interest groups) as the influence of these groups has been rapidly growing in the new business reality. Their revised definition is also proposed.

Further analysis is conducted from the three-layered approach proposed by Donaldson and Preston including descriptive, instrumental, and normative aspects. Referring to the first layer, a division of stakeholders from the point of view of organizations using the Internet in their business activities is proposed. Next, referring to the instrumental layer and based on practical examples, various aspects connected with stakeholder management, including both real and potential ones, operating in electronic space in the context of organization’s performance and accomplishment of its goals are analyzed. Finally the focus of the attention moves to the normative point of view and an analysis of the potential social and ethical challenges emerging in the Internet-impacted business environment of contemporary enterprises. Particularly careful analysis is given to this in the context of this paper.

This three-layered analysis is conducted taking into consideration the changes taking place in an organization’s business environment with the evolution of the Internet and development of the Web 2.0 phase. In this context, the consequences of the access of stakeholders to new types of internet technology-based tools and the development of social computing are included in the analysis.

In the final part of the paper, the most significant conclusions and suggestions are offered.


Austin R, Darby C.: The Myth of Secure Computing. „Harvard Business Review”. June 2003.

Bodwell C., Grawes S., Waddock S.: Responsibility: The new business imperative. „Academy of Management Executive”. Vol. 18, No. 2. 2002.

Clarkson: A stakeholder framework for analyzing and evaluating corporate social performance. „Academy of Management Review”. Vol 20, No. 1. January, 1995.

Colle S., Freeman E., Harrison J., Parmar B., Wicks A.: Stakeholder Theory: The State of the Art. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Czubkowska S.: Firmy p?ac? za komentarze odno?nie swoich produktów w sieci. „Dziennik Gazeta Prawna”. []. 02.12.2010.

Donaldson T., Preston L.: The Stakeholder Theory of the Corporation: Concepts, Evidence, and Implications. „Academy of Management Review”. Vol. 20. No. 1, 1995.

Freeman E.: Strategic Management: A Stakeholder Approach. Boston: Pitman, 1984.

Freeman E., Harrison S., Wicks A.: Managing for Stakholders: Survival, Reputation, and Success. New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2007.

Friedman A., Miles S.: Stakeholders: Theory and Practice. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

Gaudin S.: Web 2.0 tools like Twitter, Facebook can foster growth in hard times. „Computerworld”. [ like_ Twitter_Facebook_can_foster_growth_in_hard_times]. March 13, 2009.

Griffin R.: Management. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005.

GUS: Spo?ecze?stwo informacyjne w Polsce. Wyniki bada? statystycznych z lat 2006 – 2010. []. 2010.

Hitchcock J.: Net Crimes & Misdemeanors. Medford: Information Today, 2006.

Kesmodel D.:, Wilke J.: Whole Foods Is Hot, Wild Oats a Dud — So Said ‘Rahodeb’. „The Wall Street Jo-urnal”. []. July 12, 2007.

Kramer M., Porter M.: Strategy & Society. The Link Between Competitive Adavantage and Corporate Social Responsibility. „Harvard Business Review”. December 2006.

Lee J.: Handling bad PR turns sticky for Nestle. “The Sydney Morning Herald”. [ technology/enterprise/handling-bad-pr-turns-sticky-for-nestle-20100326-r0t2.html]. March 26, 2010.

McMillan R.: Siemens: Stuxnet worm hit industrial systems. „Computerworld”. []. Septem-ber 14, 2010.

Messmer E.: America’s 10 most wanted botnets. „NetworkWorld”. []. July 22, 2009.

Purcell K., Rainie L., Smith A.: The social side of the internet. „Pew Internet & American Life Project”. [ the_Internet.pdf]. January 18, 2011.

Samcik M.: Zbuntowani klienci znów atakuj? mBank. „Gazeta Wyborcza”. [ pieniadze/2029020,29577,6746819.html]. 23.06.2009.

Smith J.: The Shareholders vs. Stakeholders Debate. „Sloan Management Review”. Vol. 44. No 4. Summer 2003.

Sophos: Security threat report 2011. []. 2011.

Vijayan J.: Update: MasterCard, Visa others hit by DDoS attacks over WikiLeaks. „Computerworld”.[ article/9200521/ Update_ MasterCard_Visa_others_hit_by_DDoS_attacks_over_WikiLeaks]. December 8, 2010.

Wielki J. : Social and ethical aspects connected with e-space development (revised version). “Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society” – Volume 5 Issue 4, 2007.

Wielki J.: The impact of search engines on contemporary organizations – the social and ethical implications. [w:] Living, Working And Learning Beyond Technology. Proceedings of The Tenth ETHICOMP International Conference on the Social and Ethical Impacts of Information and Communication Technology ETHICOMP 2008. Bynum T. et al. Mantua: University of Pavia, 2008.

Zickuhr K.: Generations 2010. „Pew Internet & American Life Project”. [ final.pdf]. December 16, 2010.

Comments are closed.