Business Ethics Quarterly


Feminist Ethics as Moral Grounding for Stakeholder Theory   1

Brian K. Burton and Craig P. Dunn


Stakeholder theory, as a method of management based on morals and behavior, must be grounded by a theory of ethics. However, traditional ethics of justice and rights cannot completely ground the theory. Following and expanding on the work of Wicks, Gilbert, and Freeman (1994), we believe that feminist ethics, invoking principles of caring, provides the missing element that allows moral theory to ground the stakeholder approach to management. Examples are given to support the suggested general principle for making business decisions under feminist moral theory.

Brian K. Burton is an Assistant Professor of Management at Western Washington University. He has published articles in Business Ethics Quarterly, Journal of Business Ethics, and Journal of Management Inquiry. His current research interests include stakeholder theory, cross-cultural ethics, and business and politics.

Craig P. Dunn received his Ph.D. in Business Policy/Strategy, with a minor concentration in Philosophy, from Indiana University. He is presently an Assistant Professor of Management at San Diego State University (SDSU), where he specializes in the teaching of business ethics, corporate social performance, and business ecology. Craig has published several articles related to these topics in Business Ethics Quarterly, Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal, Business Horizons, International Journal of Management, and the Dictionary of Business Ethics.


1   We would like to acknowledge the helpful comments of Patricia Werhane and an anonymous reviewer of an earlier version of this paper.