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Marketing & Sustainability – 30 Years of Research Symbiosis

by Prof. Dr. Manfred Kirchgeorg | February 25, 2021
With the expiration of the Deutsche Post's endowment engagement, the chair will take on its new name ā€œChair of Marketing Management and Sustainabilityā€. Why was this name adjustment made?

Chair of Marketing Management and Sustainability

Under the lead of Prof. Dr. Manfred Kirchgeorg, the HHL Chair of Marketing has continuously linked three research streams since its founding: Marketing, Sustainability and E-Commerce. With the expiration of the Deutsche Post’s endowment engagement, the chair will take on its new name ā€œChair of Marketing Management and Sustainabilityā€. Why was this name adjustment made?

Research on sustainability marketing

Professor Kirchgeorg started working on research projects on sustainability marketing as early as the 80s at the University of MĆ¼nster. He habilitated in the 90s on the market-related and system-theoretical foundations of the circular economy. When he took over the chair at HHL in 1998, Sustainability Marketing, therefore, became a special research focus.

Influence of digitalization on marketing

In the following uprising of the internet, the chair also dealt with the influence of digitalization on marketing. In 1999, Professor Kirchgeorg initiated the 2nd HHL Marketing Symposium “E-Commerce Quantum Leap in Marketing”. Digitization has since crossed all sectors in the last two decades. Online stores and omnichannel concepts are now a matter of course, even if many companies still have a lot of catching up to do.

Managers lack knowledge of sustainability marketing

The situation is different with sustainability marketing. Climate change, resource consumption and the extinction of species are progressing continuously. Even if the first approaches to green marketing were developed as early as the 1980s, there are still many implementation deficits worldwide. Many managers today also have too little knowledge of sustainability and sustainability marketing.

Due to the advance of ecological problems, it is important to link marketing management and sustainability even more closely in both research and teaching.

Marketing has a dual role as both problem maker and problem solver. The marketing discipline tries to bring the claim of customer centricity into all corporate functions and processes. But the fulfillment of customer wishes can conflict with the sustainability claim. Due to the advance of ecological problems, it is therefore important to link marketing management and sustainability even more closely in both research and teaching.

Research overview

As early as 1992, Professor Kirchgeorg published an 800-page textbook “Market-Oriented Environmental Management” together with his doctoral supervisor Professor Heribert Meffert. In 2015, he then co-authored an edited volume “Sustainability Marketing”. Furthermore, many doctoral dissertations and journal articles on sustainability marketing issues have been written at the HHL marketing chair since its foundation.

Research projects range from “Resilience Marketing” and “Sustainability Branding” to topics such as “Sustainability Retailing” and “Going Green at the Point of Sale”. As early as 2008, Professor Kirchgeorg worked on climate change issues in an international research network. Together with researchers from Canada and Australia, a journal article entitled “Impacts from Climate Change on Organizations: A Conceptual Foundation” was published in 2010.

Dr. Anja Weber also wrote her doctoral thesis on sustainability marketing at the Chair of Marketing. She leads a research group on sustainability marketing at the chair and will also complete her habilitation on this topic at HHL in 2021. In total, several BMBF projects have been carried out in the field of Sustainability Marketing.

Based on this research history, it was a logical step to include sustainability in the chair’s name. “We only have a limited window of time left to adapt our lifestyle. Radical innovations and the use of digitalization for sustainable change as well as behavioral changes are necessary for this.Ā  With concepts of de-marketing and sustainability marketing, we would like to support the change with our research team in the coming years” says Professor Kirchgeorg.