The Relationship between Stakeholder Theory and Corporate Social Responsibility: Differences, Similarities, and Implications for Social Issues in Management

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Although stakeholder theory and corporate social responsibility (CSR) have evolved into major theoretical frameworks for exploring social issues in management, there is a limited and often misleading understanding of the relationship between them that inhibits the management field from adopting a social orientation to a full extent. Our aim is to remove unnecessary barriers that preclude collaboration between scholars in the stakeholder theory and CSR camps; empower organizational scholars and practitioners with a more nuanced language for dealing with social issues in management; and enable the creation of a coherent and integrative theoretical foundation in the area of social issues in management that has previously been at a disadvantage to other areas in management. In our conceptual analysis, we argue that stakeholder theory and CSR provide distinct but complementary theoretical frameworks with some overlap. The actual decision to choose a particular framework depends on the problem one wants to solve and the settings of that problem.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Management Studies
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)1441-1470
Number of pages30
Publication statusPublished - 09.2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank the general editor Jonathan Doh and the three anonymous reviewers for their very valuable comments and suggestions.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Society for the Advancement of Management Studies and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.