The Need to Define “We”

Stakeholder analysis helps decision makers define the we in “We, the people” (from the preamble to the U.S. Constitution) as broadly as possible. Stakeholder analysis is a method of specifying who and what is affected, not a search for interest groups couched in the rhetoric of ethics. It asks, “Who else matters?”. Three categories provide an answer. The point is to be as inclusive as pos- sible and consider the long and short terms. Affected stakeholders include the following:

1. Internal: The organization or agency, including mission, superiors, employees, and the decision maker

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2. External and direct: Clients and suppliers, lawmakers, taxpayers, and community residents and businesses

3. External and indirect: Those keyed to general interests, spillovers, and the long term, including citizens and society, other jurisdictions, the private sector, and future generations

Analysts will surely disagree about particular classifications, but that is not as important as including all affected parties. Stakeholder analysis can also assist decision makers in working through controversial environmental problems. The link between environmental concerns and ethics is in extending our reach to future generations. Here they enter the calculus as external, indirect stake- holders. Where environmental degradation is concerned, future generations are both highly dependent and highly vulnerable. Also bear in mind the three levels of ethical effects: the decision maker or individuals affected, the organization or policy, and the system or society. By changing the level of abstraction, stakeholder categories can account for all three levels.