Managing relationships with environmental stakeholders: a study of UK water and electricity utilities

Harvey, Brian and Schaefer, Anja (2001). Managing relationships with environmental stakeholders: a study of UK water and electricity utilities. Journal of Business Ethics, 30(3) pp. 243–260.



In this paper we report a study of the approach of six U.K. water and electricity companies towards managing the relationship with their 'green' stakeholders. Stakeholders are accorded increasing importance in political discourse and stakeholder theory is emerging as a promising framework for the analysis of corporate social performance. We studied the companies' general approach towards green stakeholders, their dealings with specific stakeholder groups and whether they emphasised the consultation or the information aspect of stakeholder management. We found that none of the six companies had a systematic stakeholder approach that extended to all potential green stakeholders. Rather, the importance of specific stakeholder groups seemed to be determined by managers' intuition and by the stance that the stakeholders themselves displayed towards the company. Green stakeholders with an institutional power base - government via legislation, environmental and industry regulators — emerged as the most immediately influential stakeholders. The Environment Agency, the environmental regulator, played an especially important role in the companies' environmental management. Customers and the general public - the source of corporate social legitimacy — were also considered to be important, but their influence was more long term and based on voice, rather than the potential for direct retaliation. Economic stakeholders were generally considered to be not very interested in the companies' envirormiental performance.

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