Ownership Strategies and Stakeholder Relations of State-Owned Enterprises
Brüesch, Caroline; ; (2016). Ownership Strategies and Stakeholder Relations of State-Owned Enterprises: Taking stock of current practice in Swiss Cantons. IRSPM Conference, PolyTech University of Hongkong, 13 - 15 April
In recent decades, it has been widely acknowledged among scholars and management practitioners that stakeholder-orientation matters, both, for private and public organisations, including state-owned enterprises (SOEs). However, although academia agrees on the importance of SOEs’ accountability to and relations with stakeholders, it simultaneously stays quite vague when it comes to the operationalisation of this demand. This paper, therefore, aims to analyse how SOEs’ stakeholder relations are actually addressed within current public corporate governance practice in nine Swiss regional governnments (so-called cantons). Based on a document study of publicly available public corporate governance guidelines and owner strategies, current cantonal practice is compared to the OECD’s recommendations on SOEs’ stakeholder relations. The results of our qualitative study indicate that stakeholders are not systematically adressed in cantonal public corporate governance practice yet. And if they are, the documents analysed in our study do not provide useful guidance on how cantonal SOEs are expected to relate with their stakeholders. However, since the cantons, in general, still seem to agree with the importance of this topic, we suspect the reason for the disappointing results is not due to a lack of willingness but rather a lack of systematic stakeholder management in the cantons themselves. Dealing with stakeholder relations is a difficult matter for public organizations, for which public management literature has not found practicable and comprehensive solutions yet. We, thus, argue for further research on both, SOE governance at the local level and stakeholder management as one crucial but difficult management task of public corporations and their public owners, in order to fill practice-oriented gaps in normative research and guidance.