International Waters learning Exchange & Resource Network

3.Ways to define and categorize stakeholders

3.1 Environmental stakeholders

Environmental stakeholders are people, organizations, or social groups of any size that act at various levels (local, regional, national, and international; private and public), have a significant and specific stake in a given set of natural resources, and can affect or be affected by natural resource management decisions, actions and/or lack thereof. While environmental stakeholders vary widely depending on context, pressures and risks, and specific environmental issues, they can be grouped into four broad categories (English 2000):

“Losers: those negatively affected by changes in environmental conditions, which are either directly affecting their health and economic well-being, or degrading social, cultural, and/or historically meaningful environmental features or areas.

Winners: those that are positively affected by changes in environmental conditions, primarily through economic means.

Perpetrators: those changing the environmental conditions themselves either directly or indirectly. These are often those causing alterations in the delivery of ecosystem services.

Managers: those trying to maintain environmental conditions, particularly within the five-modules mentioned above”.

3.2 Natural resource stakeholder groups

Some practitioners of stakeholder participation differentiate groups depending on the way in which they engage with the natural resources in question (Meffe et al. 2002). In Section 4.2.1 below, the process by which conveners identify stakeholders for their specific environmental management issue will be introduced.

Stakeholder participation in environmental management refers to the permanent processes of collaboration and empowerment in decision making and implementation for ensuring ecological functioning for human well-being. In practice, ‘stakeholders’ have been managing resources for thousands of years. For most of human history, natural resource management was a community-based endeavour, primarily focused on the harvesting and production of goods for human consumption. As the complexity of economic activities and social institutions evolved so did the complexity of environmental issues. Today, there are more diverse stakeholder groups than ever, and more potential for conflict.

Stakeholder engagement has a broad spectrum of participation beyond information sharing and consultation. It involves understanding needs and interests of stakeholders, collaboratively defining targets, seeking consensus and agreements, and jointly implementing initiatives and monitoring progress over time (Susskind et al. 1999b). Besides the moral rationale for increasing stakeholder participation, there are pragmatic reasons managers should want to involve multiple actors in decision-making: studies demonstrate that initiatives where stakeholders are involved through all stages, from design and planning to implementation and monitoring, yield better and longer lasting outcomes than those done with little or no multi-stakeholder participation.