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Stakeholders are critical to your organization…but who are they?

We often hear about stakeholders, but there is some confusion about who, exactly, these people are. Stakeholders are those individuals and organizations that your company impacts. Stakeholders can be divided up into internal stakeholders and external stakeholders.

Internal stakeholders

Internal stakeholders are easier to identify than external stakeholders. They are already involved with the company and have a measurable interest in the health of the organization. Here are some examples of internal stakeholders:

  • Directors and owners
  • Executives and employees
  • Investors
  • Departments, business units, and additional owned businesses
  • Joint venture partners

Each of these stakeholders are involved with the organization and have expectations of the organization. In addition to any personal connection they have to the business, they also receive salaries or dividends or career opportunities, for instance.

External Stakeholders

External stakeholders are tougher to identify. Who has an interest or concern regarding your company from outside the organization? Here are some examples of external stakeholders:

  • Customers (considered one of the most important stakeholders)
  • The local community and your business neighbors
  • Government regulators (such as OSHA)
  • Industry, standards, or accreditation groups (such as Underwriters Laboratory)
  • Creditors
  • External auditors

With these examples, you can think of further potential parties that are interested in your business. Engaging with stakeholders is an important part of running an ethical business. For more information, check out some strategies here and here.

Stacey Supina, Center for Ethics in Practice, University of St. Thomas