Stakeholder Engagement, Knowledge Problems and Ethical Challenges

J. Robert Mitchell, Ronald K. Mitchell, Richard A. Hunt, David M. Townsend, Jae H. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


In the management and business ethics literatures, stakeholder engagement has been demonstrated to lead to more ethical management practices. However, there may be limits on the extent to which stakeholder engagement can, as currently conceptualized, resolve some of the more difficult ethical challenges faced by managers. In this paper we argue that stakeholder engagement, when seen as a way of reducing five types of knowledge problems—risk, ambiguity, complexity, equivocality, and a priori irreducible uncertainty—can aid managers in resolving such ethical challenges. Using a practical illustration of the ethical challenges surrounding the development and application of genetic modification technologies, we demonstrate how stakeholder engagement enables managers to better address these knowledge problems, thereby to manage more ethically. In this way, we suggest that stakeholder engagement has an even more crucial role to play in business ethics research and practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-94
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022


  • Ethical challenges
  • Stakeholder engagement
  • Uncertainty and knowledge problems


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