Shift #2: From Shareholder To Stakeholder.


After discovering the strategy of companies like BMW, Medtronic, Swapfiets, and the Dollar Shave Club in our previous article, it’s now time for something a wee-bit different. ‘The Stakeholder shift’ – a business model designed to satisfy all stakeholders involved with a company – customers and partners alike, to create a better, fairer world. 

Rather than aiming for pure profit and possibly neglecting workers, customers, or the environment (which society pays for), a company that has taken on The Stakeholder Shift aims to make everyone involved happy.

Let’s deep dive into what this means for companies true to the stakeholder shift.

Why is this shift happening?

Have you ever worked for a company that, frankly, didn’t give a rat’s behind about you? It’s not fun. You probably felt neglected, that impacting decisions were made seemingly out of nowhere.

Shareholders like to invest for a reason – and if you’ve purchased shares in a company for millions of dollars, you want to see a pot of gold somewhere along that rainbow. Many shareholders are not afraid to voice these demands – which gets the company adrenaline but all-too-often, at the expense of others involved.

These jittery acts of satisfying company shareholders who focus mainly on fast growth, will lead in many cases to decisions that not everyone’s happy about. The pressure of delivering good numbers can even lead to governments and societies to turn against a particular company; should they openly flaunt the wonkiness of their moral compass.

The stakeholder’s business model is different. Rather than neglecting people or the environment, this model aims to benefit everyone involved. Everyone gains by partnering, interacting with, buying from, or working for the company.

The stakeholder shift starts with giving value to the customers. Heartfelt empathy characterizes the relationship. Customers feel deeply cared about and attached to the company and are, in turn, very loyal – not shy to voice their love to their fellow peeps.

Partners are engaged in the creation and want nothing more than for you to succeed – because your company benefits them tremendously as well.

And investors are long term – not looking for quick bucks but patiently allowing innovation and community projects to take root.

Stakeholder shift story: Starbucks.

Following the 2008 financial collapse, after Starbucks was forced to close hundreds of stores, they went back to the drawing board to reinvent their business model. It wasn’t just about serving people cups of coffee anymore. Things had to change. And with that in mind, Starbucks’s new value proposition went back to its roots – how they can serve their customers and their communities best.

Their first post-crash initiative, “My Starbucks Idea,” gave customers a voice and direct channel to the previously unreachable (and massive) company headquarters. Through it, customers got the chance to provide their insight and feedback, sharing what matters most to them in their morning coffee route. Starbucks took these ideas to heart, testing and incorporating 100 ideas. And what do you know, it worked.

With other grand initiatives like C.A.F.E. (Coffee and Farmer Equity) and stakeholder goals to solve global challenges, Starbucks has genuinely become a responsible business, true to the stakeholder model.

A new mindset.

Starbucks isn’t the only one who has adjusted to this new satisfactory model. In our new book, we’ll unveil case studies of many more globally successful companies. These include:

  • Unilever, aiming for a carbon-neutral future and bettering the lives and communities of people around the world.

  • TOMS Shoes, giving away $1 for every $3 they make.

  • Tony’s Chocolonely, stopping slavery in Africa, one chocolate bar at a time.

Adopting a new mindset requires switching from just production or delivering services to making real change for those involved. And that change can’t be done at the expense of other stakeholders – everyone needs to benefit from your mission.

A very cool business model, isn’t it? Stay tuned for the next article in the series – The Digital Shift. Discover the strategic juice behind Salesforce, Fortnite, Duolingo, and The Times.

Are you particularly interested in the stakeholder shift? Have a look at the cases of Lemonade and Sustainable South Bronx.

Roland Wijnen
Business designer Amsterdam

Roland Wijnen

Aikido, life-long learner, handyman, Amsterdam, vegetarian, gardening, rolling up sleeves, “strategy is a visual art”, why? (question everything), deep thinker, engineer.