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Categorizing corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives in B2B markets: the why, when and how

David L. Blenkhorn (Lazaridis School of Business and Economics, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Canada)
H.F. (Herb) MacKenzie (Goodman School of Business, Brock University, St Catharines, Canada)

Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing

ISSN: 0885-8624

Article publication date: 2 October 2017




This paper aims to address the questions of why, when and how business-to-business (B2B) firms engage in sustainability initiatives. The authors believe that this is the first attempt to address all three questions in a single paper, and one of the earliest to focus on these in B2B markets.


The sustainability initiatives of B2B firms throughout the value/supply chain were examined. Input data came from external sources and the firms themselves. Two conceptual frameworks were developed, illustrating why firms partake in sustainability initiatives and when and how they may do so.


This paper provides two conceptual frameworks that address why, when and how firms get involved in sustainability initiatives, and how they can better communicate their involvement to stakeholders.

Research limitations/implications

To obtain a broader perspective of B2B firms’ involvement in sustainability initiatives, a variety of third-party sources were used, augmented with data from firm websites. Examples of firms the authors selected were constrained by the collection of firms described in student research papers.

Practical implications

This paper suggests useful guidelines for firms considering starting or expanding sustainability initiatives by providing frameworks that address why, when and how firms do so, with examples of firms illustrating engagement in each area. It also provides communication guidelines, necessary for enhancing stakeholder relations.

Social implications

Integrating environmental sustainability within a firm’s strategy can improve corporate image and increase efficiency, while contributing to a better world environment.


A review of the corporate social responsibility (CSR) literature indicated that most research has focused on business-to-consumer markets. This paper addresses CSR in B2B markets, examining players at all levels of the value/supply chain: manufacturers, channel intermediaries and end-users.



Blenkhorn, D.L. and MacKenzie, H.F.(H). (2017), "Categorizing corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives in B2B markets: the why, when and how", Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. 32 No. 8, pp. 1172-1181.



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Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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