Stakeholder Salience for Small Businesses: A Social Proximity Perspective

Merja Lähdesmäki, Marjo Siltaoja, Laura Spence

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This paper advances stakeholder salience theory from the viewpoint of small businesses. It is argued that the stakeholder salience process for small businesses is influenced by their local embeddedness, captured by the idea of social proximity, and characterised by multiple relationships that the owner–manager and stakeholders share beyond the business context. It is further stated that the ethics of care is a valuable ethical lens through which to understand social proximity in small businesses. The contribution of the study conceptualizes how the perceived social proximity between local stakeholders and small business owner-managers influences managerial considerations of the legitimacy, power and urgency of stakeholders and their claims. Specifically, the paradoxical nature of close relationships in the salience process is acknowledged and discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)373-385
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Issue number2
Early online date13 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - 30 Aug 2019


  • Business ethics
  • social proximity
  • small and medium sized enterprises
  • small business social responsibility

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