Stakeholder engagement through empowerment: The case of coffee farmers

Chiara Civera, Simone de Colle, Cecilia Casalegno

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    While most studies on stakeholder engagement focus on high-power stakeholders (typically, employees), limited attention has been devoted to the engagement of low-power stakeholders. These have been defined as vulnerable stakeholders for their low capacity to influence corporations. Our research is framed around the engagement of low-power stakeholders in the coffee industry who are, paradoxically, critical resource providers for the major roasters. Through the case study of Lavazza—the leading Italian roaster—we investigate empowerment actions addressed to smallholder farmers located in Brazil, India, East Africa, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. We contribute to the theoretical discussion around engagement and empowerment by developing a framework linking together areas of empowerment (defined in the literature) and specific empowerment actions (emerging from our interviews). Our insights shed light on how organizations can design empowerment strategies leading to more effective stakeholder engagement and how empowerment actions can contribute to turn low-power stakeholders into active business partners. We demonstrate that moving from a traditional competitive view of corporate–stakeholder relationships to a stakeholder theory view based on a logic of cooperative partnerships reinforces the idea that stakeholder engagement and empowerment are both entangled with the value creation process.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)156-174
    Number of pages19
    JournalBusiness Ethics
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - Apr 2019

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Business and International Management
    • Economics and Econometrics


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