Today, all it takes is one organizational misstep to sink a company's reputation. Social media can be a strict ethical enforcer, with the power to convince thousands to boycott products and services. Executives are stuck on appeasing stakeholders--shareholders, employees, and consumers--but they ignore shapeholders, regulators, the media, and social and political activists who have no stake in a company but will work hard to curb what they see as bad business practices. And they do so at their own peril.
In Shapeholders: Business Success in the Age of Activism, former congressman, Fortune 500 executive, and University of North Dakota President Mark Kennedy argues that shapeholders, as much as stakeholders, have significant power to determine a company's risks and opportunities, if not its survival. Many international, multi-billion-dollar corporations fail to anticipate activism, and they flounder on first contact. Kennedy zeroes in on the different languages that shapeholders and companies speak and their contrasting metrics for what constitutes acceptable business practice. Executives, he argues, must be visionaries who find profitable--and probable--collaborations to diffuse political tensions. Kennedy's decision matrix helps corporations align their business practices with shapeholder interests, anticipate their demands, and assess changing moral standards so that together they can plan a profitable route forward.