Conscientious Business-to-Business Organizations


Moving Beyond Corporate Social Responsibility in Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous Environments, Special issue of Industrial Marketing Management; Deadline 1 Jun 2021

POSTING TYPE: Calls: Journals

Author: Maja Arslanagic-Kalajdzic


Call for Papers

Conscientious Business-to-Business Organizations: Moving Beyond Corporate Social Responsibility in Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous Environments

Deadline for submission: 1 June 2021

Industrial Marketing Management announces the call for papers for a special issue on Conscientious Business-to-Business Organizations: Moving Beyond Corporate Social Responsibility in Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous Environments.

Overview and purpose of the special issue

Over the last two decades, organizations have been pressured by stakeholders to behave in a socially responsible manner and to reduce their negative impacts (Iglesias, Markovic, Bagherzadeh, & Singh, 2020). These pressures, along with the desire to manage risk, have led organizations to adopt corporate social responsibility (CSR) as a way of meeting their broader responsibilities to society and the environment (Walsh & Beatty, 2007). In the business-to-business (B2B) context, both the policy and practice of CSR are particularly significant, because of the need to align stakeholder actions within a system. However, there are question marks about CSR. Some notable organizations (e.g., Dow Chemical, Corning Inc.) have been accused of using it as a smokescreen to build their corporate reputation while acting in contradictory ways (Lyon et al., 2018), whereas others have paid lip service to it, without integrating it in their identity and business processes (Markovic, Iglesias, Singh, & Sierra, 2018; Maxfield 2008; Pope & Waeraas, 2016). This has raised stakeholder concerns about the corporate motivations and ethics behind CSR investments (Joyner & Payne, 2002), and fueled the perception that CSR practices are often insincere and manipulative (Maxfield, 2008; Pope & Waeraas, 2016).

More recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has further challenged the CSR initiatives embraced by organizations. It has drastically disrupted the socioeconomic environment, and turned it into an even more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) one (Bennett & Lemoine, 2014), putting more pressure on organizations to embrace their broader responsibilities and to adopt a more conscientious approach to management (Ind & Horlings, 2016). In this scenario, B2B organizations need to rethink how to deal with three key challenges that CSR has often failed to properly address and that are spurring emerging discussions in the marketing and ethics literatures.

First, many of the pressures on B2B organizations, are a combination of social, economic, health and governance issues, and require a stakeholder approach. This approach runs counter to the idea, espoused by Milton Friedman’s (1970) polemical article in the New York Times, and supported by the agency theory of Jensen and Meckling (1976) as to the primacy of shareholders. The shareholder view was certainly influential on B2B organizations (Jurgens, Berthon, Papania, & Shabbir, 2010), but it has been increasingly criticized (Grossman, 2005; Smith & Rönnegard, 2016) and new streams of thought have started to flourish, advocating a more balanced stakeholder perspective (Iglesias & Ind, 2016) that is rooted in conscientiousness (Ind & Horlings, 2016).

Second, organizations still lack adequate measures as to the value of CSR (Knox & Maklan, 2004), one consequence of which is debate as to its effectiveness (Vogel, 2007). Thus, B2B organizations need to rethink how they define and measure value if they want to better serve their different stakeholders (Iglesias et al., 2020). Interestingly, even if there is an emerging discussion in the B2B marketing literature regarding how value is co-created by various stakeholders (Aarikka-Stenroos & Jaakkola, 2016; Mele, 2011), there is still scant  research as to what value means to such stakeholders and how to measure it beyond a financial approach (Harrison & Wicks, 2013).

Third, many B2B organizations still lack a clear purpose rooted in their distinctive capabilities, while some recently published studies show how most CSR-related initiatives remain disconnected from the organizational purpose and strategic goals (e.g., Maon, Swaen, & Lindgreen, 2017). Thus, CSR is often tangential to business processes, rather than embedded in the core (Iglesias et al., 2020), which means it is less likely to be embraced and perceived as authentic (Mazutis & Slawinski, 2015). A clear purpose allows an organization to “make a positive, transformative impact on the world” (Iglesias & Ind, 2016, p. 206) that goes beyond the purely economic. Surprisingly, however, there is still a dearth of research on how B2B organizations should build a purpose and what the benefits of doing so are (Golob, Davies, Kernstock, & Powell, 2019).

Overall, B2B organizations face pressures to develop new management approaches capable of meeting the expectations of diverse stakeholder groups, and of creating value beyond the purely financial (Iglesias et al., 2020; Jurgens et al., 2010; Smith & Rönnegard, 2016).

Conscientious organizations are a potential alternative to CSR that has started to emerge recently (Iglesias & Ind, 2016; Iglesias et al., 2019, 2020; Markovic et al., 2018; Olsen & Peretz, 2011). Conscientious organizations adopt and promote a stakeholder perspective that allows a balanced creation of value for different stakeholders (Iglesias & Ind, 2016; Olsen & Peretz, 2011; Rindell et al., 2011). They build a purpose, connected to the organization’s distinctive capabilities (Iglesias & Ind, 2016) and heritage (Iglesias, Markovic, Singh, & Sierra, 2019), and use it as a strategic lens for decision-making, by putting particular emphasis on the long-term consequences of decisions (Iglesias & Ind, 2016). Additionally, conscientious organizations promote open and participatory cultures and more co-creative approaches to management (Ind, Iglesias, & Markovic, 2017), that allow different stakeholders to influence the definition of the brand’s strategic priorities and actions with the goal of positively transforming the competitive context, society, and the environment (Iglesias et al., 2020). However, the concept of conscientious organizations is still in an emerging phase, which demands a more fine-grained understanding, especially within the field of B2B. Therefore, this special issue calls for conceptual and empirical studies (both qualitative and quantitative), which can contribute to the further development of the domain.

Potential contributions may address, but are not limited to the following topics:

  • Conceptualization, drivers and outcomes of conscientious B2B organizations
    • What are the key characteristics of conscientious B2B organizations? What are their business processes? How is their strategy built?
    • What are the drivers for creating conscientious B2B organizations? What resources are required in creating and sustaining them? How can they get access to the relevant resources?
    • What are the positive business outcomes that conscientious B2B organizations are likely to attain? Are there negative outcomes? If so, how should managers address them?
    • Does the perception of conscientiousness of B2B organizations lead to positive customer-related outputs? How does such perception affect B2B business relationships and networks?
  • Value definition and measurement in the context of conscientious B2B organizations
    • How should conscientious B2B organizations define value?
    • How should conscientious B2B organizations measure value? Should they develop different measures of value for different stakeholders, and how?
  • Corporate purpose in the context of conscientious B2B organizations
    • How should conscientious B2B organizations define and promote a corporate/brand purpose? To what extent does the purpose need to be rooted in the organizations’ distinctive capabilities? Does it need to be connected to the organizations’ history and heritage, and how?
    • How can conscientious B2B organizations best connect corporate/brand purpose to strategy?
    • How can conscientious B2B organizations embed purpose into operations and relationships?
  • Corporate culture and leadership in the context of conscientious B2B organizations
    • Do conscientious B2B organizations share certain corporate values?
    • What type of leadership style can best promote a conscientious B2B organization?
    • How can conscientious B2B organizations obtain positive outputs in terms of employee engagement and/or attractiveness as an employer brand?
  • The embracement of the stakeholder perspective in managing B2B organizations
    • How can B2B organizations achieve a balanced stakeholder perspective?
    • How can B2B organizations reconcile potential conflicts of interest among their stakeholders?
    • What role do investors play in encouraging conscientious B2B organizations?
    • What role do CEOs and top management play in promoting conscientious B2B organizations?
    • What role do influential stakeholders play in stimulating conscientious B2B organizations?
  • The embracement of the long-term perspective in managing B2B organizations
    • How can B2B organizations develop a long-term strategic perspective in their strategic decision-making processes and operations?
    • How can B2B organizations reconcile and balance short-term and long-term perspectives?
    • What roles do investors, CEOs and top managers play in encouraging a long-term perspective?

Preparation and submission of paper and review process

Papers submitted must not have been published, accepted for publication, or presently be under consideration for publication elsewhere. Submissions should be about 6,000-8,000 words in length. Copies should be uploaded on Industrial Marketing Management’s homepage through the EVISE system. You need to upload your paper using the dropdown box for the special issue on Conscientious Business-to-Business Organizations. For guidelines, visit

Papers not complying with the notes for contributors (cf. homepage) or poorly written will be desk rejected. Suitable papers will be subjected to a double-blind review; hence, authors must not identify themselves in the body of their paper. Please do not submit a Word file with “track changes” active or a PDF file. Manuscripts falling within the scope of the special issue (as described above) and deemed to have a reasonable chance of conditional acceptance after no more than two rounds of revisions will enter the review process.

Important dates

Submission opens: 1 April 2021

Deadline for submission: 1 June 2021

Guest editors

Dr. Stefan Markovic (

Associate Professor, Department of Marketing, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark.

Dr. Oriol Iglesias (

Associate Professor, Department of Marketing, Universitat Ramon Llull, Esade Business School, Spain.

Prof. Nicholas Ind (

Professor, Department of Economics, Innovation and Technology, Kristiania University College, Norway.


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