IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Developing social capital in buyer–supplier relationships: The contingent effect of relationship-specific adaptations


  • Roden, Sinéad
  • Lawson, Benn


Strategic buyer–supplier relationships are increasingly viewed in both the scholarly and practitioner literatures as key drivers of sustainable competitive advantage. In particular, relationship specific adaptations – the extent to which exchange members make tangible or intangible adaptations for a partner – are acknowledged as one of the central issues. Such adaptations need to be examined in context, taking into consideration the social ties that connect a firm and its suppliers. Using the lens of social capital, we examine the contingent effect of buyer and supplier relationship adaptations, and structural and cognitive capital on the development of relational capital. A sample of 163 buyer–supplier relationships within UK manufacturing firms is used to test a series of three-way moderated regressions. The data indicate that the relationship between structural and cognitive forms of social capital and the level of relational capital is moderated by the extent of the relationship adaptations made by each firm and its supplier. Contrary to expectations, the relationship between cognitive capital and relational capital was significantly negative when high levels of buyer adaptations and supplier adaptations were present, indicating a substitution effect between cognitive capital and relationship adaptations. Structural capital was found to be most strongly related to relational capital when adaptations were reciprocated by both actors. However, unilateral adaptations by either actor resulted in significantly lower levels of relational capital as structural capital increased. Implications for theory and managers are discussed, relating to the impact of different combinations of relationship-specific adaptations on social capital components in a buyer–supplier relationship.

Suggested Citation

  • Roden, Sinéad & Lawson, Benn, 2014. "Developing social capital in buyer–supplier relationships: The contingent effect of relationship-specific adaptations," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 151(C), pages 89-99.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:proeco:v:151:y:2014:i:c:p:89-99
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ijpe.2014.01.008

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Yadong Luo & Yi Liu & Jiaqi Xue, 2009. "Relationship Investment and Channel Performance: An Analysis of Mediating Forces," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 46(7), pages 1113-1137, November.
    2. Siguaw, Judy A. & Baker, Thomas L. & Simpson, Penny M., 2003. "Preliminary evidence on the composition of relational exchange and its outcomes: the distributor perspective," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 56(4), pages 311-322, April.
    3. Sako, Mari & Helper, Susan, 1998. "Determinants of trust in supplier relations: Evidence from the automotive industry in Japan and the United States," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 34(3), pages 387-417, March.
    4. Mukherji, Ananda & Francis, John D., 2008. "Mutual adaptation in buyer-supplier relationships," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 61(2), pages 154-161, February.
    5. Williamson, Oliver E, 1983. "Credible Commitments: Using Hostages to Support Exchange," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(4), pages 519-540, September.
    6. Johanson, Jan & Mattsson, Lars-Gunnar, 1987. "Interorganizational relations in industrial systems : a network approach compared with the transaction cost approach," Working Papers 1987:7, Uppsala University, Department of Business Studies.
    7. Heide, Jan B. & Stump, Rodney L., 1995. "Performance implications of buyer-supplier relationships in industrial markets : A transaction cost explanation," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 57-66, January.
    8. Buvik, Arnt & Grønhaug, Kjell, 2000. "Inter-firm dependence, environmental uncertainty and vertical co-ordination in industrial buyer-seller relationships," Omega, Elsevier, vol. 28(4), pages 445-454, August.
    9. Laura Poppo & Kevin Zheng Zhou & Todd R. Zenger, 2008. "Examining the Conditional Limits of Relational Governance: Specialized Assets, Performance Ambiguity, and Long-Standing Ties," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 45(7), pages 1195-1216, November.
    10. Narasimhan, Ram & Nair, Anand, 2005. "The antecedent role of quality, information sharing and supply chain proximity on strategic alliance formation and performance," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(3), pages 301-313, June.
    11. Jeffrey H Dyer & Wujin Chu, 2000. "The Determinants of Trust in Supplier-Automaker Relationships in the U.S., Japan and Korea," Journal of International Business Studies, Palgrave Macmillan;Academy of International Business, vol. 31(2), pages 259-285, June.
    12. Hwang, Peter, 2006. "Asset specificity and the fear of exploitation," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 60(3), pages 423-438, July.
    13. Sambasivan, Murali & Siew-Phaik, Loke & Abidin Mohamed, Zainal & Choy Leong, Yee, 2013. "Factors influencing strategic alliance outcomes in a manufacturing supply chain: Role of alliance motives, interdependence, asset specificity and relational capital," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 141(1), pages 339-351.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Nudurupati, Sai Sudhakar & Bhattacharya, Arijit & Lascelles, David & Caton, Nicholas, 2015. "Strategic sourcing with multi-stakeholders through value co-creation: An evidence from global health care company," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 166(C), pages 248-257.
    2. Bhattacharya, Ananya & Singh, Prakash J. & Nand, Alka Ashwini, 2015. "Antecedents of buyer opportunistic behavior in outsourcing relationships," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 166(C), pages 258-268.
    3. Al-Tabbaa, Omar & Ankrah, Samuel, 2016. "Social capital to facilitate ‘engineered’ university–industry collaboration for technology transfer: A dynamic perspective," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 104(C), pages 1-15.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:proeco:v:151:y:2014:i:c:p:89-99. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.