Reimagining the language of engagement in a post-stakeholder world

Mark S. Reed, Bethann Garramon Merkle, Elizabeth J. Cook, Caitlin Hafferty, Adam P. Hejnowicz, Richard Holliman, Ian D. Marder, Ursula Pool, Christopher M. Raymond, Kenneth E. Wallen, David Whyte, Marta Ballesteros, Sadiq Bhanbhro, Siniša Borota, Marnie L. Brennan, Esther Carmen, Elaine A. Conway, Rosie Everett, Fiona Armstrong-Gibbs, Eric JensenGerbrand Koren, Jenny Lockett, Pedi Obani, Seb O’Connor, Laurie Prange, Jon Mason, Simon Robinson, Priya Shukla, Anna Tarrant, Alessandro Marchetti, Mascha Stroobant

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Language matters in shaping perceptions and guiding behaviour. The term stakeholder is widely used, yet little attention is paid to the possibility that its use may inadvertently perpetuate colonial narratives and reinforce systemic inequities. In this article, we critically examine the limitations of the stakeholder concept and its ambiguity, normativity, and exclusionary implications. We emphasise the importance of using language that gives a voice to marginalised groups, promotes inclusion and equity, and fosters meaningful and reflexive participation in decision-making processes. In critiquing the use of the term and calling for alternative practices, we aim to contribute to the decolonisation of research norms and the creation of more inclusive and equitable societies. Therefore, rather than advocating a single alternative term, we suggest a focus on the people, places, and species affected by decisions, interventions, projects, and issues.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1481-1490
Number of pages10
JournalSustainability Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2024

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© The Author(s) 2024.


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