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A process perspective on trust in buyer–supplier relationships. “Calculus”: An intrinsic component of trust evolution

Houcine AKROUT (INSEEC BUSINESS SCHOOL, Laboratoire de recherche INSEEC, Paris, France)

European Business Review

ISSN: 0955-534X

Article publication date: 12 January 2015




The purpose of this article is to show that, within a process perspective, calculus is not only compliant with trust but also that trust forms are integral to its dynamics. Having demonstrated the theoretical bases of compatibility between reputation, economic interest and trust, and the necessary inclusion of a social context in business-to-business (B2B) exchange, this paper proposes a conceptual framework that will enable us to understand a multi-form concept of trust.


The approach to the topic is one of theoretical analysis and conceptual development.


This proposal indicates that the presence of calculus in the earliest stages of exchange relationships gives way to other forms of trust that are more cognitive and affective in nature. The elucidation of the evolutionary nature of trust shows that calculus and trust theory are complementary and provide, respectively, insight for the whole process.

Research limitations/implications

The presented research by incorporating forms and time dimension adds theoretical insights and produces an incremental step toward better understanding of trust dynamics in industrial and business markets. The main challenge to the proposed model will be the empirical test.

Practical implications

This conceptualization should help managers understand trust creation better, and provide them with valuable information for understanding the evolution of relationships with suppliers. Segmentation based on relational phases requires tailoring each form of trust strategy, and, hence, accurate identification of a relationship phase could help categorize and subcategorize customers regarding calculative, cognitive or emotional dominant forms of trust.


The paper contributes to the discussion on how integrative approaches (calculative and non-calculative) improve our understanding of buyer–supplier relationships and promotes the emergence of a coherent vision of trust evolution.



The author thanks Göran Svensson, Editor of EBR, for his valuable advice. He would also like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their comments and suggestions, which have helped improve this paper.


AKROUT, H. (2015), "A process perspective on trust in buyer–supplier relationships. “Calculus”: An intrinsic component of trust evolution", European Business Review, Vol. 27 No. 1, pp. 17-33.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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