Is sustainability-centered marketing the way ahead?

A sustainability-centered marketing strategy is not leading to superior customer-brand relationships and firm performance. In general this is the outcome of a recent study by Mena et al. (2019) where they have compared three marketing strategies:

  1. Market-driven strategy with a focus on customers, employees and suppliers.
  2. Stakeholder-focused strategy that includes customers, employees and suppliers but also shareholders, communities, and regulators. 
  3. Sustainability-centered strategy with a focus on the triple bottom line” – economic, environmental, and social performance.

Marketing strategies in companies have long been dominated by a market-driven approach to achieve superior customer-brand relationships and firm performance. According to Mena et al. (2019) companies that adopt a stakeholder-focused strategy outperformed in the research study that they conducted. The motivation for this result is that including more direct stakeholders relates to a better social performance and these companies can be seen as stewards for a better society,and are rewarded with better firm performance.

The study also showed that only companies with a tangible product showed superior results with a sustainabililty-centered marketing strategy. Besides social performance these companies also added environmental performance in their marketing approach. Due to the nature of the physical or tangible product it is effective to include social and environmental performances in their marketing.

For me the question is: are we in a transition phase where companies are moving from a market-driven strategy towards a stakeholder strategy and ultimately to a sustainability strategy?

In my opinion that is the case, but for most companies it is probably too complex to really make a business case for a sustainability-centered approach. I am also interested in your opinion. Please let me know.

Norbert Bol


Mena, J. A., Hult, G. T. M., Ferrell, O. C., & Zhang, Y. (2019). Competing assessments of market-driven, sustainability-centered, and stakeholder-focused approaches to the customer-brand relationships and performance. Journal of Business Research95, 531-543.

Photo by, Flickr

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