Managing Business Relationships


For Social Impact, Special issue of Journal of Business Research; Deadline 1 Dec 2020

Special Issue: Managing Business Relationships for Social Impact

This Special Issue of the Journal of Business Research aims to attract world-leading research on how commercial, non-profit and government organizations manage business relationships for social impact. Specifically, the special issue aims at socially oriented business researchers, e.g. scholars from social sciences, business and management research, public health, behavioral change, corporate social responsibility and organizational studies, who are willing to combine strong theoretical underpinnings and world-class empirical evidence.

Recently the Business Roundtable, an association of business leaders in the USA chaired Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co redefined the purpose of businesses. Nowadays “major employers are investing in their workers and communities because they know it is the only way to be successful over the long term” (Business Roundtable 2019). Commercial, non-profit and government organizations are recognizing the need to manage business relationships for social impact as they are confronted with three pervasive challenges. First, organizations need to address growing inequalities and concerns about inclusiveness, fairness and justice. Second, organizations need take a more active role to combat environmental degradation and protect our common pool resources. Third, organizations need to develop a more complete view of corporate purpose, creating long-term value that better serves everyone, including investors, employees, communities, suppliers and customers.

Notwithstanding these significant challenges in the business landscape, there is a growing academic interest in how organizations manage their business relationships for social impact. For example, fifty years have passed since Kotler and Levy (1969) proposed to broaden the concept of marketing to include the marketing of organizations, persons and ideas. However, business research still often treats social issues in an instrumental and reductionist fashion, for example, studies in business marketing employ social concepts (e.g. social ties) and theories (e.g. social exchange theory) for understanding mechanism leading to business effectiveness and efficiency rather than developing strategies “for” social good and monitoring the social (both intended and unintended) impact of their actions. Although promising research attempts were undertaken quite early (i.e. Conn, 1972; Gravereau et al., 1978), these efforts did not develop into a significant stream in the marketing literature.

Nevertheless, there appears to be an important shift in perception of the social impact and its role in business research that comes, among others, from the recent growth of interest in sustainability. For example, Achrol and Kotler (2012) acknowledge the shift from prioritizing growth and targeting high value markets into emerging sustainable markets and targeting middle and low value markets. This shift seems to be also anticipated with regard to activities in business markets (e.g. Kumar & Christodoulopoulou, 2014; Sheth & Sinha, 2015), where businesses are expected to devote equal attention to development in economic, environmental and social terms.

New regulations (Veal and Mouzas, 2011) as well as market-based responses to sustainability (Veal and Mouzas, 2012) are changing the rules of the game in many industries such as automotive, energy, aviation forcing organizations to rearrange their interactions in business relationships. Thus, commercial, non-profit and government organizations need to engage in give-and-take exchange relationships with other organizations to alter or improve their social impact. Nonetheless, they often fail to achieve a social impact and existing research highlights some significant barriers such as 1) economic reasoning; 2) weak actor bonds; and 3) differing perceptions of the rules of the game (Finke et al., 2016).

The attention to the social impact of organizations aligns with the service-dominant paradigm (Vargo and Lusch 2011) and its dynamic popularization in business research (Altuntas Vural 2017). This influential paradigm transforms marketing attention into “the actions of multiple actors, often unaware of each other, that contribute to each other’s wellbeing” (Vargo and Lusch, 2016). Thus, engagement with such phenomenological approach calls for broader consideration of a social good in marketing through appropriate research methods and, when appropriate, revised conceptualization of existing concepts like customer satisfaction or relationship performance.

Today using marketing tools and techniques for social impact is commonly accepted as an effective commercial strategy (e.g. corporate social responsibility, cause-related marketing) and increasingly accepted as an approach to planned social transformation (e.g. social marketing) that can be used to influence positive social change.

Although there is a wealth of research elaborating on various processes related to business relationships and networks, the social impact has received scant attention while describing these processes. For example, prior research on inter-firm New Product Development (e.g. Jer et al., 2017; Pérez-Luño et al., 2011) did not consider broader social consequences of such projects. Similarly, there is a robust evidence that business capabilities devoted to business networking help in enhancing organizational performance (Forkmann et al. 2018; Ritter and Gemünden 2003), but we still know very little about how developing and using such capabilities influence the social good.

Further, the developments in the area of new technologies (e.g. IoT, AI, machine learning, M2M interactions) standardize and automatize a lot of business-to-business processes and engage various external stakeholders into value co-creation, however, we do not know much about how these processes affect the wellbeing of internal and external stakeholders, as well as the society at large. For example, implementation of modern technologies raises an issue of human-technology substitution and its labour implications. These technologies also require access to a lot of personal data, so it is important to consider ethical implications of using them in a business context, particularly from the perspective of so-called ethical relationship marketing (Laczniak & Murphy, 2012).

This special issue is dedicated to the socially oriented academics, e.g. scholars in social marketing, public health, behavioral change, corporate social responsibility, organizational and management studies, who are willing to utilize business marketing concepts and theories in their research. For example, Gordon (2012) calls for retooling social marketing, indicating the need to use the concepts well established within the business marketing literature, such as network approach, business relationship quality.

Finally, the social impact of business relationships will be more conspicuous in some industries than in others. As the consumption of products such as pharmaceutical products, food, alcoholic beverages and cosmetics affects human health and the quality of life, business strategies in these sectors (e.g. purchasing policies) should give more consideration to their environmental impact and stakeholders’ well-being beyond their economic survival. The issue of social impact is also paramount in public-private partnership that itself is an important domain in managing business relationships (Leite & Bengston, 2018; Nissen et al., 2014).The public organizations engaging in such partnerships are inclined to assure social development either through their missions or general regulations, hence there is a promising research area focusing on how such partnerships may create or destroy social value.

The growing popularity of marketing to create social impact is reflected in increasing research interest and a growth in businesses practising socially responsible policies in their business relationships. As the idea matures, we are beginning to see diversity in the way socially-responsible marketing is understood and implemented by governments, commercial and third sector organizations in different parts of the world. Therefore, the proposed special issue is very timely and will act as a benchmark for future work in the discipline of business research, providing a focused insight into managing business relationships for social impact in terms of its current and emergent themes, challenges, debates and developments.

This special issue calls for papers in the areas listed below but not limited to:

  • Positive and negative social impact of business relationships, inter-organizational business relationships and networks
  • Complex relationship and conflict between social and economic objectives in business marketing
  • Corporate social innovation in business to business context
  • Corporate) Social marketing in business to business context
  • Social impact of organizational purchasing decisions
  • Conceptualizing social impact
  • Systems thinking for social impact
  • Micro (e.g. single company) and macro (e.g. regulatory institutions, global industry orchestrators) level approaches to stimulating orientation at social impact in business relationships and networks
  • Value co-creation aimed at increasing social impact
  • Role(s) of stakeholders for social impact
  • Social impact of sustainable marketing
  • Transformative business services
  • Business marketing in government and third sector organisations
  • Corporate social responsibility and cause related marketing
  • Using coercive and non-coercive power and their social implications
  • Social impact of business marketing in industries targeting vulnerable consumers, e.g. medical and pharmaceutical, alcohol beverages and cosmetics
  • Ethics in and its impact on business marketing
  • Public – private partnerships
  • Socially responsible product development
  • Social value creation/destruction via modern technologies, e.g. artificial intelligence, virtual reality, big data analytics, machine learning

Guest Editors:

First Name: Maciej Last Name: Mitr?ga
Affiliation: University of Economics in Katowice, Department of Organizational Relationship Management
e-mail address:

First Name: Dariusz Last Name: Siemieniako
Affiliation: Bialystok University of Technology, Faculty of Engineering Management, Department of Marketing and Tourism
e-mail address:

First Name: Krzysztof Last Name: Kubacki
Affiliation: Department of Marketing, Faculty of Business, Economics and Law, Auckland University of Technology
e-mail address:

First Name: Stefanos Last Name: Mouzas
Affiliation: Lancaster University Management School
e-mail address:

Submission Details:

Papers should be submitted at the JBR website between Sept 1, 2020 and Dec 1, 2020. Please remember to choose article type “BUSINESS SOCIAL IMPACT”.