Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Sustainability Science




Strategic and Governance Services


Reed, M. S., Merkle, B. G., Cook, E. J., Hafferty, C., Hejnowicz, A. P., Holliman, R., . . . Stroobant, M. (2024). Reimagining the language of engagement in a post-stakeholder world. Sustainability Science. Advance online publication.


Language matters in shaping perceptions and guiding behaviour. The term stakeholder is widely used, yet little attention is paid to the possibility that its use may inadvertently perpetuate colonial narratives and reinforce systemic inequities. In this article, we critically examine the limitations of the stakeholder concept and its ambiguity, normativity, and exclusionary implications. We emphasise the importance of using language that gives a voice to marginalised groups, promotes inclusion and equity, and fosters meaningful and reflexive participation in decision-making processes. In critiquing the use of the term and calling for alternative practices, we aim to contribute to the decolonisation of research norms and the creation of more inclusive and equitable societies. Therefore, rather than advocating a single alternative term, we suggest a focus on the people, places, and species affected by decisions, interventions, projects, and issues.



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.