What is stakeholder capitalism? Holistic Economic Growth

In short, stakeholder capitalism is an economic system that places emphasis on creating value not only for shareholder – but for all other stakeholders impacted by a business.

June 27, 2023


The business world can’t stop talking about stakeholder capitalism. But what actually is it?

As our society becomes increasingly concerned about the impact of corporations on various stakeholders (like people, and the planet!), this approach to capitalism offers a new perspective.

Let’s talk about the meaning and principles of it, its benefits, and how it differs from traditional share-holder focused models. 

Understanding Stakeholder Capitalism

In short, stakeholder capitalism is an economic system that places emphasis on creating value not only for shareholder – but for all other stakeholders impacted by a business.

This includes employees, customers, communities, suppliers, and the environment. Unlike traditional capitalism, which primarily focuses on maximizing shareholder wealth, stakeholder capitalism promotes a more holistic approach to business, recognizing that long-term success relies on the well-being and satisfaction of all stakeholders.

That means a company’s success is not just about financial performance – it’s about creating a positive impact. 

what is stakeholder capitalism?

Key Principles of Stakeholder Capitalism 

There’s a few key principles that define and shape stakeholder capitalism. While all companies are different in their approach and mission, these principles guide their decision making.

Inclusive Decision-Making

Stakeholder capitalism encourages businesses to involve a diverse range of perspectives in decision-making processes.

By considering the input of all stakeholders, companies can make more informed choices that address the needs and concerns of various groups. 

Long-Term Value Creation

Rather than prioritizing short-term financial gains, stakeholder capitalism emphasizes sustainable growth and long-term value creation. This involves investing in employee development, fostering customer loyalty, and adopting environmentally responsible practices.

Ethical and Responsible Conduct 

Stakeholder capitalism upholds ethical and responsible business practices, promoting transparency, fairness, and accountability.

This means treating employees equitably, sourcing ethically, and minimizing negative environmental impacts.

Many businesses also pursue third-party certifications like B Corp or 1% for the Planet, ensuring that they are reaching the highest levels of social and environmental performance. 

Benefits of Stakeholder Capitalism

It should seem obvious by now, but there are a ton of benefits to this form of capitalism. Not just for the businesses that pursue it, but for the employees and communities they impact. 

Enhanced Reputation and Brand Value

By actively considering the interests of stakeholders, companies can build stronger relationships, foster trust, and enhance their reputation. This can lead to increased customer loyalty and support, ultimately boosting brand value.

Now more than ever, younger consumers want to support brands that stand for something. 

Improved Employee Engagement and Retention

Valuing employees as stakeholders leads to greater job satisfaction, higher engagement levels, and increased productivity. In turn, this helps attract and retain top talent, resulting in a more motivated and dedicated workforce.

Mitigating Risks and Anticipating Future Challenges

Stakeholder capitalism encourages companies to proactively address potential risks and challenges. By staying attuned to the needs and concerns of stakeholders, businesses can adapt more effectively to changing market dynamics and emerging trends.

Shareholder Capitalism

In traditional shareholder capitalism (aka what most companies follow and our current system overall), the primary focus is on maximizing shareholder value, often at the expense of other stakeholders.

This approach has been criticized for its potential to foster inequality and neglect social and environmental impacts. Stakeholder capitalism, on the other hand, advocates for a more balanced and inclusive approach, recognizing the interconnectedness between various stakeholders and their impact on long-term business success.

What is stakeholder capitalism?


On Karma Wallet, we rate 15,000+ companies on their social and environmental performance. What we’ve found is that there are a lot more companies than you think engaging in this form of capitalism.

One example is Patagonia, the outdoor clothing company, that for decades has prioritized environmental sustainability and social responsibility. As a result, they’ve seen wild financial success, strong customer loyalty, and an engaged community of customers. Most recently, the founder & CEO of Patagonia donated the entire company to fight climate change.

Unilever, a multinational consumer goods company, has also embraced stakeholder capitalism, with a focus on sustainable sourcing, reducing waste, and empowering women in the workplace.

Last Thoughts

Through Karma Wallet, you can view ratings for thousands of companies, then find and support companies that are engaged in stakeholder capitalism.

When you support better brands, you’re telling companies that this is what consumers want. And the markets will shift over time.

Stakeholder capitalism is a paradigm shift in the business world. And a better future is coming. By recognizing and prioritizing the diverse needs and concerns of stakeholders, businesses can drive positive change while also reaping long-term benefits.

Embracing stakeholder capitalism not only enables companies to create value for all stakeholders but also contributes to a more equitable and prosperous society.