Business Research

, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp 126–152

Corporate Social Responsibility in Buyer-Supplier Relationships: Is it Beneficial for Top-Tier Suppliers to Market their Capability to Ensure a Responsible Supply Chain?

Open Access

DOI: 10.1007/BF03342746

Cite this article as:
Leppelt, T., Foerstl, K. & Hartmann, E. Bus Res (2013) 6: 126. doi:10.1007/BF03342746


This study assesses how top-tier suppliers market their capabilities to ensure a responsible upstream supply chain to their downstream buyers, and how the marketing of corporate social responsibility (CSR)-related supply management practices affects the reputation of top-tier suppliers in business-to-business (B2B) markets. In a cross-functional multiple-case study involving marketing, purchasing, and sustainability executives of five supplier organizations in Central Europe, we explored four distinct approaches for marketing superior CSR management abilities in B2B markets that potentially foster long-term comparative advantages: (1) Fact-based communication of measurable CSR capabilities, (2) targeting of indirect customers and influencers, (3) marketing through education, and (4) marketing of CSR as a service. Moreover, our inductive results provide evidence that the effective marketing of CSR capabilities enhances a supplier’s reputation only if it sends consistent signals to the market. Therefore, a close integration of marketing and purchasing is crucial for achieving signaling consistency. Building on an established framework of purchasing-marketing integration in the particular context of CSR we developed a crossfunctional theory on the link between marketing, supply chain alignment and reputation, which is expressed in four sets of testable research propositions.


M14 M21 M39 L60 


business markets case study research corporate social responsibility cross-functional research marketing supply chain management supply management 

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2013

This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and the source are credited.

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Supply Chain ManagementFriedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-NurembergGermany
  2. 2.Institute for Supply Chain ManagementEBS Business SchoolGermany

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