Sustainable B2B Branding


Taking stock of our knowledge, Special issue of Industrial Marketing Management; Deadline 1 Jun 2022

POSTING TYPE: Calls: Journals

Author: Selma Kadić-Maglajlić


Call for Papers

Sustainable B2B Branding: Taking stock of our knowledge

Deadline for submission: 1st June, 2022

Overview and purpose of the special issue

B2B sustainability is more crucial than ever, and sustainable branding is a strategic issue among B2B companies. Many embrace the concept of sustainability and seek to adjust their values, goals, and mission (Truong et al., 2021; Vesal et al., 2021). According to (Erdil, 2013)sustainability is fast becoming a viable ideology in business. Tara Luckman, advisor to the US Cotton Trust Protocol suggested: “The COVID-19 crisis, and resulting industry shutdown, seeks to reimagine and reinvent our business processes and services. This is the time for us all to re-examine how to source more responsibly and to integrate new data into sustainability strategies.” (Sustainable Brands, 2020). However, it is still unclear whether and how the B2B brand benefits from environmental sustainability investment and whether following environmental sustainability practices improves market performance (Czinkota et al., 2014; Vesal et al., 2021).

In recent years, the topics of sustainability and branding are broadened and increasingly linked (Czinkota et al., 2014; Grubor & Milovanov, 2017; Gupta et al., 2013). Sustainable B2B branding research addresses the actions and processes of business actors seeking a positive financial, social and, of course, environmental influence from their business operations (Kumar & Christodoulopoulou, 2014). Narrowly, sustainability in a B2B context can be perceived as diminishing the detrimental environmental consequences of firms’ activities (Vesal et al., 2021). Sustainability, however, does not only include environmental issues (Daniel, 2019; Duffett et al., 2018). A B2B brand image signals important product attributes and the relationship business customers expect to have with a supplier (Bendixen et al., 2004; Vesal et al., 2021). Furthermore, sustainable branding can support competitive advantage by positively influencing perceptions of product evaluations and customer satisfaction (Sheth & Sinha, 2015). Additionally, associating the B2B brand with desirable values such as responsibility, social and environmental stewardship, and morality supports workplace attraction (Sheth & Sinha, 2015). We must integrate efforts on research on sustainable B2B branding.

Branding in a B2B network is a complex phenomenon. Compared to B2C branding, it must often serve an additional purpose; to add to the buyer’s value creating processes. B2B markets have also been seen as driven by precise and technical specifications and by business buyers who are professional, active customers that carefully evaluate accordingly, indicating that emotional impact and impulse purchases are rare. B2B firms are interconnected and the contribution to sustainability of a B2B market offering crucially depends on the actions of other business network actors. The line between adding or detracting to the sustainable agenda is thin, and often out of sight or control of the B2B firm (Guo et al., 2018; Truong et al., 2021). Hence, there can be both positive and negative outcomes to system-wide sustainability from the actions of one business actor. Branding market offerings as less polluting may come at the expenses of suppliers making adjustments that have a negative environmental impact (Mol, 2015). Some B2B brands have be accused of greenwashing, partially on these accounts (Kapitan et al., 2019; Nyilasy et al., 2014). The buyers’ decision-making process also comes to the fore as a theme to fully understand the relevance of sustainable branding for B2B customers. Studies show that there is a disjunction between the attitudes towards sustainable or green products and the actual behavior of purchasing those products (Kumar & Christodoulopoulou, 2014; Olson, 2013; Vermeir & Verbeke, 2008). Recent research suggests that emotional factors and individual opinions in a B2B setting cannot be overlooked (Gomes et al., 2016). While the B2B buyers are focused on their company’s profit and finances, they also pride themselves of making good choices. Emotional factors also influence individuals involved in B2B buying and individual brand experiences are important also in B2B purchasing. Additionally, B2B buyers can feel emotionally secure when purchasing brands that have a positive and strong image (Davis et al., 2008; Truong et al., 2021). Providing ethical services and products, as well as companies showing environmental and social concerns, are factors that can change customer behavior. This supports the need for B2B companies to provide their customers with transparent information on their environmental effort and sustainable products (Martin & Schouten, 2012).  The motivation for this call is to establish a fruitful dialogue about these topics. We provide a list of topical issues, but we encourage researchers to add to this list and provide contributions of relevance for the Sustainable B2B branding research agenda. In addition to the themes presented, we welcome submissions integrating various methodologies and encourage interdisciplinary work. We seek both conceptual and empirical papers:

  • From black to green: challenges related to the organizational and managerial transition towards a sustainable B2B brand identity
    • Managing the transition of the supply network/ecosystem in building B2B brand identity
    • Salespersons as communicators of sustainable brand values in buyer-seller relationships
    • Internal branding toward employees to communicate shared corporate values and create internal commitment
    • Sustainability-based brand image and its effect on market performance
  • Brand identity co-creation strategies in business networks
    • The role of legitimacy and reputation in sustainable branding
    • Value and impact of sustainable branding efforts
    • Sustainable branding as strategic positioning
    • Involving new partners to foster sustainable brand identity
    • Stakeholder strategies for sustainable branding efforts
  • Communicating Sustainability in B2B branding
    • Storytelling in relation to B2B sustainability branding
    • Brand values and brand equity in B2B sustainable branding
    • Sustainable brand image dynamics
    • Buyer and supplier risk perceptions and B2B branding
  • B2B sustainability branding in specific business contexts: challenges and issues
    • Research results on B2B branding from specific industries, which have interest for a general audience

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. Submisions should be uploaded on Industrial Marketing Management’s homepage through the Editorial management system. You need to upload your paper using the dropdown box for the special issue on VSI: Sustainable B2B Branding. 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: March 1, 2022
  • Deadline for submission: June 1, 2022

Guest editors

  • Professor Poul Houman Andersen, National University of Science and Technology, Norway and Aalborg University, Denmark
  • Post Doc Andreea Bujac, Aalborg University, Denmark,
  • Associate Professor Susanne Åberg, Uppsala University,


Bendixen, M., Bukasa, K. A., & Abratt, R. (2004). Brand equity in the business-to-business market. Industrial Marketing Management, 33(5), 371–380.

Czinkota, M., Kaufmann, H. R., & Basile, G. (2014). The relationship between legitimacy, reputation, sustainability and branding for companies and their supply chains. Industrial Marketing Management, 43(1), 91–101.

Daniel, C. O. (2019). Assessing the Role of Green Marketing In Small and Medium Enterprises. International Journal of Scientific and Research Publications (IJSRP), 9(1), p8585.

Davis, D. F., Golicic, S. L., & Marquardt, A. J. (2008). Branding a B2B service: Does a brand differentiate a logistics service provider? Industrial Marketing Management, 37(2), 218–227.

Duffett, R., Edu, T., Haydam, N., Negricea, I. C., & Zaharia, R. (2018). A multi-dimensional approach of green marketing competitive advantage: A perspective of smallmedium andmicro enterprises from Western Cape, South Africa. Sustainability (Switzerland), 10(10).

Erdil, T. S. (2013). Strategic Brand Management based on Sustainable-oriented View: An Evaluation in Turkish Home Appliance Industry. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 99, 122–132.

Gomes, M., Fernandes, T., & Brandão, A. (2016). Determinants of brand relevance in a B2B service purchasing context. Journal of Business and Industrial Marketing, 31(2), 193–204.

Grubor, A., & Milovanov, O. (2017). Brand Strategies in the Era of Sustainability. Interdisciplinary Description of Complex Systems, 15(1), 78–88.

Guo, R., Zhang, W., Wang, T., Li, C. B., & Tao, L. (2018). Timely or considered? Brand trust repair strategies and mechanism after greenwashing in China—from a legitimacy perspective. Industrial Marketing Management, 72, 127–137.

Gupta, S., Czinkota, M., & Melewar, T. C. (2013). Embedding knowledge and value of a brand into sustainability for differentiation. Journal of World Business, 48(3), 287–296.

Kapitan, S., Kennedy, A. M., & Berth, N. (2019). Sustainably superior versus greenwasher: A scale measure of B2B sustainability positioning. Industrial Marketing Management, 76, 84–97.

Kumar, V., & Christodoulopoulou, A. (2014). Sustainability and branding: An integrated perspective. Industrial Marketing Management, 43(1), 6–15.

Mol, A. P. J. (2015). Transparency and value chain sustainability. Journal of Cleaner Production, 107, 154–161.

Nyilasy, G., Gangadharbatla, H., & Paladino, A. (2014). Perceived Greenwashing: The Interactive Effects of Green Advertising and Corporate Environmental Performance on Consumer Reactions. Journal of Business Ethics, 125(4), 693–707.

Olson, E. L. (2013). It’s not easy being green: The effects of attribute tradeoffs on green product preference and choice. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 41(2), 171–184.

Sheth, J. N., & Sinha, M. (2015). B2B branding in emerging markets: A sustainability perspective. Industrial Marketing Management, 51, 79–88.

Truong, Y., Mazloomi, H., & Berrone, P. (2021). Understanding the impact of symbolic and substantive environmental actions on organizational reputation. Industrial Marketing Management, 92, 307–320.

Vermeir, I., & Verbeke, W. (2008). Sustainable food consumption among young adults in Belgium: Theory of planned behaviour and the role of confidence and values. Ecological Economics, 64(3), 542–553.

Vesal, M., Siahtiri, V., & O’Cass, A. (2021). Strengthening B2B brands by signalling environmental sustainability and managing customer relationships. Industrial Marketing Management, 92, 321–331.