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Primary Stakeholders vs. Secondary Stakeholders: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on January 5, 2024
Primary stakeholders are directly involved in or affected by a business's operations and decisions, while secondary stakeholders are indirectly impacted.

Key Differences

Primary stakeholders are directly impacted by a company’s activities and decisions, like employees and customers. Secondary stakeholders have an indirect connection, such as community groups or media.
Primary stakeholders often have a significant influence on the business and are actively engaged in its operations. Secondary stakeholders have lesser influence and engagement, influencing or being influenced by the business in a less direct manner.
Primary stakeholders typically have direct financial or operational stakes in the business, such as shareholders and suppliers. Secondary stakeholders’ interests are more peripheral, such as NGOs concerned with the company's environmental impact.
In decision-making, primary stakeholders' needs and concerns are often prioritized due to their direct involvement. Secondary stakeholders, while considered, have less priority in decision-making processes.
The relationship of primary stakeholders with the business is often contractual and essential for its functioning. Secondary stakeholders have a more distant, non-contractual relationship.

Comparison Chart

Impact on or by Business

Direct impact and involvement
Indirect impact and involvement

Influence and Engagement

High influence and active engagement
Lesser influence and indirect engagement


Direct financial or operational stakes
Peripheral or external interests

Priority in Decision-Making

Higher priority in decision-making
Considered but with less priority

Relationship with Business

Contractual and essential
Non-contractual and more distant

Primary Stakeholders and Secondary Stakeholders Definitions

Primary Stakeholders

Entities directly impacted by business decisions.
Customers, as primary stakeholders, directly affect the market strategy.

Secondary Stakeholders

Those with an indirect interest in business operations.
NGOs are secondary stakeholders interested in a company's social responsibility.

Primary Stakeholders

Directly involved parties in a business.
Employees, as primary stakeholders, are essential to company operations.

Secondary Stakeholders

External entities with a non-financial interest.
Government agencies, as secondary stakeholders, regulate business practices.

Primary Stakeholders

Those with a direct financial interest.
Shareholders are primary stakeholders with vested financial interests.

Secondary Stakeholders

Indirectly affected parties by a business.
Local communities, as secondary stakeholders, are affected by the company's environmental policies.

Primary Stakeholders

Direct contributors to a business's success.
Suppliers are primary stakeholders crucial to the product supply chain.

Secondary Stakeholders

Peripheral contributors to a business's broader environment.
Trade associations, as secondary stakeholders, indirectly influence industry standards.

Primary Stakeholders

Immediate beneficiaries of business operations.
Employees, as primary stakeholders, benefit directly from company profits.

Secondary Stakeholders

Groups influenced by, but not directly involved in, business decisions.
The media, as secondary stakeholders, influence public perception of the company.


What are primary stakeholders?

They are entities directly involved in or affected by a business's operations.

Are customers considered primary stakeholders?

Yes, customers are primary stakeholders directly affected by the business.

Who are secondary stakeholders?

Entities indirectly impacted by a business’s activities.

Can primary stakeholders influence business decisions significantly?

Yes, they often have significant influence on business decisions.

How do secondary stakeholders affect a company?

They can influence a company indirectly through public opinion or regulation.

Do secondary stakeholders have a direct financial stake?

No, their interests are more indirect and peripheral.

Do secondary stakeholders participate in daily operations?

No, they are not typically involved in daily operations.

Do secondary stakeholders have contractual relationships with the business?

Generally, no, their relationship is more indirect.

Is employee feedback important for primary stakeholders?

Yes, as primary stakeholders, employee feedback is crucial.

Are primary stakeholders always shareholders?

Not always, but shareholders are a key group of primary stakeholders.

Are community groups primary stakeholders?

They are usually considered secondary stakeholders.

What’s the role of primary stakeholders in strategic planning?

They play a key role, often providing direct input and feedback.

Can media be considered a secondary stakeholder?

Yes, the media are secondary stakeholders influencing public perception.

How do primary stakeholders affect company policy?

Their needs and concerns often shape company policies and strategies.

Do primary stakeholders have a long-term interest in the business?

Yes, they typically have a sustained, long-term interest.

How do government regulations impact secondary stakeholders?

Secondary stakeholders like government agencies can set regulations that affect business practices.

Can primary stakeholders be suppliers?

Yes, suppliers are primary stakeholders with direct business involvement.

Do primary stakeholders impact a company’s profitability directly?

Yes, their involvement and decisions can directly affect profitability.

How do secondary stakeholders add value to a business?

They provide external perspectives and can influence broader business environments.

Can secondary stakeholders become primary stakeholders?

In certain situations, their role can evolve, but this is not common.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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