The Scandinavian Cooperative Advantage: Theory and Practice of Stakeholder Engagement in Scandinavia

Robert Strand, R. Edward Freeman

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    In this article we clarify the historical roots of stakeholder theory to establish that a much larger role was played by Scandinavian thinkers in its development than is currently acknowledged. We show that important contributions to the stakeholder concept were being made by Eric Rhenman and his Scandinavian contemporaries in parallel to the contributions from the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) in the early 1960s and thereafter and thus are not a “historical trail” as they are currently labeled. Therefore we offer a significant modification to the historical narrative as presented in Strategic Management: A Stakeholder Approach (Freeman, 1984). These important Scandinavian contributions include the first publication and description of the expression „stakeholder‟ in management literature accessible to scholars throughout the world and the introduction of the first stakeholder map to the management literature. We use this occasion to consider potential relationships between these early Scandinavian contributions to the stakeholder concept with current practices of well-known Scandinavian companies. Through this we contend the evidence suggests relationships worthy of further considerations. We conclude by endorsing the expression “Scandinavian cooperative advantage” through which we intend to provoke increased attention from beyond Scandinavia. Cooperation between companies and their stakeholders is increasingly recognized as necessary for the social and environmental sustainability of world and the long-term profitability of companies where we contend inspiration for such cooperation may be prosperously drawn from Scandinavia.
    Original languageEnglish
    PublisherCenter for Corporate Social Responsibility, CBS
    Number of pages51
    ISBN (Print)978-87-92114-25-9
    Publication statusPublished - 2012
    SeriesCSR and Business in Society: CBS Working Paper Series


    • Cooperative advantage
    • Scandinavia
    • Stakeholder theory origins
    • Strategic management
    • Sustainability

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