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The term ‘stakeholder’ was once used to refer only to people or entities that owned shares in a particular company. However, its meaning has widened over the years to include a broader range of people and institutions that have some interest in the activities of company or organization. Such interests stem from the fact that these stakeholders are or may be affected by the activities of the company or organization in question. The activities of stakeholders may also have an affect on a particular company or institution, the impact of which will depending on the status of the stakeholder in relation to the company or organization.

For example, employees are stakeholders in the company they work for because they receive wage and other benefits from the company. However, the local community and government are also stakeholders as they rely on the company for taxes and jobs to keep society functioning. Some other examples of stakeholders include customers, suppliers, creditors, trade unions and investors. Examples of key stakeholders include creditors, directors, employees, government (and its agencies), owners (shareholders), suppliers, unions, and the community from which the business draws its resources.