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Mapping Out Stakeholder Interests that Influence Your Business

Part of the Business Ethics For Dummies Cheat Sheet

A stakeholder is any group or individual that can crucially affect or is crucially affected by an organization. For your business, stakeholders include your stockholders, your employees, your customers, and the community in which you operate. Each one of these groups is affected by everything your company does, but what’s good for one stakeholder isn’t necessarily good for the others.

Reducing operating expenses by cutting back on your workforce and using cheaper materials may be good for your stockholders, for example, but it’s not good for your employees. It’s not good for the community you’re based in, either, because layoffs ripple through the local economy, hurting other businesses that depend on spending from your workers. And using cheaper materials may result in a lower-quality product, which isn’t in your customers’ best interests.

Unfortunately, you can’t always do what’s in everyone’s best interests, and deciding which stakeholder interests take priority is one of the biggest challenges of managing an ethical company. Stakeholder mapping, the process of identifying and weighing the interests of different stakeholders, can help you decide which interests should come first.

As you map out the different interests that affect your company, keep in mind the following tips:

  • Sort the group’s interests into categories: financial, social, environmental, political, and so on.

  • Figure out how the different groups interact with and influence each other (such as your employees’ spending money in the community).

  • List the positive and negative impacts of your company’s actions on each stakeholder group.

  • Devise a plan to communicate with each stakeholder group and, if necessary, gain their support.

Mind Tools has a free stakeholder-mapping template, as well as a good description of the process and things to consider.

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