Humanizing Stakeholders by Rethinking Business

Katinka J.P. Quintelier*, Joeri van Hugten, Bidhan L. Parmar, Inge M. Brokerhof

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Can business humanize its stakeholders? And if so, how does this relate to moral consideration for stakeholders? In this paper we compare two business orientations that are relevant for current business theory and practice: a stakeholder orientation and a profit orientation. We empirically investigate the causal relationships between business orientation, humanization, and moral consideration. We report the results of six experiments, making use of different operationalizations of a stakeholder and profit orientation, different stakeholders (employees, suppliers, labor unions), and different participant samples. Our findings support the prediction that individual stakeholders observing a stakeholder-oriented firm see the firm’s other stakeholders as more human than individual stakeholders observing a profit-oriented firm. This humanization, in turn, increases individual stakeholders’ moral consideration for the firm’s other stakeholders. Our findings underscore the importance of humanization for stakeholders’ moral consideration for each other. This paper contributes to a deeper understanding of the firm as a moral community of stakeholders. Specifically, we move away from a focus on managers, and how they can make business more moral. Instead we direct attention to (other) stakeholders, and how business can make these stakeholders more moral.

Original languageEnglish
Article number687067
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberSeptember
Publication statusPublished - 22 Sept 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the Behavioral Lab of the School of Business and Economics (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) for data collection support. Early versions of this work have benefitted from generous feedback. We especially acknowledge J. W. Stoelhorst, Flore Bridoux, Andreas K?nig, the participants of the summer school on stakeholder theory, the participants of the 2019 society for business ethics conference, and the members of the M&O Department at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright © 2021 Quintelier, van Hugten, Parmar and Brokerhof.

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • business orientation
  • humanization
  • mind attributions
  • moral consideration
  • moral legitimacy
  • profit orientation
  • stakeholder orientation
  • stakeholders


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