Denoted by expressions such as transparency and measurability, the portrayal of one’s business in a correct and fair manner has become a widespread and hegemonic notion that is hard to oppose. Management tools promoting such values aim at improving internal effectiveness as well as to meeting requirements of the external environment. The current CSR trends and all management system standards for 'stakeholder engagement' is an expression of this trend where environmental and human rights organizations' perspective, for example, is included in the management system of organizations. To enhance these purposes, more formal organization is needed: establishment of new categories for stakeholders inside and outside organizations. The increased formalization of organization is often described as a win-win solution for everyone (management, employees, customers, society at large).

In the project we problematize this simplified picture and pose two questions about the consequences of this increased formalization of organization: 1) How do organizations establish categories for their 'relevant stakeholders' when introducing management standards with a stakeholder perspective? 2) What (hidden) consequences can be observed in the perspective of the categorized stakeholders due to the chosen categorization? The project runs for 3 years (starting in 2012) for the three researchers and includes nine qualitative studies of businesses in various industries in which we examine how stakeholders are categorized according to various management system standards, to generate knowledge about the meaning and consequences of such categories. Theoretically, institutional organization and standardization theory is combined with critical accounting theory and constructivist theory of categorization.

The project is financed by the Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation (Riksbankens Jubileumsfond).  Project members: Kristina Tamm Hallström (Project Manager), Maria Mårtensson (Stockholm University) and Michael Holmgren (Stockholm University).