Thursday, February 6, 2014

Jungle Camp Stakeholder Management

I have watched the German jungle camp (“I am a celebrity…Get me out of here”; and the confessions end here). Much has been written and discussed on this broadcasting format in which more or less famous participants face nauseating tests in the jungle with the world watching. Let’s look at the jungle camp for a moment from the perspective of corporate stakeholder management. Stakeholder management aims at generating as much value as possible by including the stakeholders of an organization, in order to achieve what is called integrative or “win-win” results. In our thought experiment, let’s assume that RTL is the company we look at, which sells and broadcasts the product “jungle camp”.

What are the benefits for the different stakeholders of RTL? Judging from the viewing rates, the jungle camp seems to satisfy a huge customer demand by generating a specific benefit for the viewers. The more or less famous participants in the jungle receive a bonus of tens of thousands euro for their participation on the one hand. On the other hand they also get a platform to present themselves in front of over eight million viewers. The local suppliers in eastern Australia get additional business due to the presence of the production team of around 300 persons – companies breeding cockroaches and water spiders might benefit the most though. In addition, the production of the jungle camp also generates jobs for the local population and helps increase the turnover of tourism. Finally, the owners of RTL, i.e. the shareholders of the RTL group, are certainly pleased with the success of the jungle camp, which generates advertising revenue related to the target audience. In this regard, the jungle camp represents a successful broadcasting format that increases benefits for all its primary stakeholders.

However, it also raises the question of whether corporate stakeholder management, which is exclusively oriented towards creating mutual benefits, also constitutes “good” stakeholder management. Are we willing to accept the nasty jungle tests, the selling of human dignity for a participation bonus, the exploitation of financial difficulties and the stereotypical roles constructed with smart cutting techniques for participants in the jungle in exchange for the economic success of a broadcasting format? This is something everyone has to decide for him or herself. In my view, the jungle camp is a good example for how economic considerations can be in conflict with social norms and values. Thereby, a company may certainly generate benefits for its stakeholders without considering what constitutes “good” stakeholder management. Obvious examples for this can also be found in the raw materials industry.

One approach for a company to address this tension between economic and ethical aspects is a stakeholder survey. Here, the stakeholders articulate what in fact matters to them in their relationship with a company. By including its stakeholders, a company can legitimize its business activities on the one hand and, on the other hand, it also hands over some responsibility to its stakeholders to reflect their own ethical standards. In this view, the jungle camp would be an expression of the values and norms of the stakeholders of RTL and, thus, of society. Did you know that in 2013, the jungle camp has been nominated for the most important German TV award, the Grimme Award?

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