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reducing carbon emissions

Learning to Change: Embedding Carbon Management in UK-based Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs)

  • School: Nottingham Business School
  • Starting: 2023
  • Funding: UK student / EU student (non-UK) / International student (non-EU) / Self-funded


Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are at the heart of the UK economy and increasing attention is being given to their carbon emissions impact.  In the UK and EU, most business organisations are SMEs (over 95%) employing a high percentage of people and accounting for around half (43-53%) of greenhouse gas emissions by businesses. The SME sector is rich in diversity and faces various complex challenges. SMEs are often hard in terms of engagement and implementation of carbon management. SMEs are often characterised by a shared resource limitation compared to multi-national companies which, due to their size and scale, are the focus of issues around environmental sustainability. SMEs are an under-developed and under-researched sector in carbon management as most studies have concentrated on large firms. There are questions surrounding the effective implementation of carbon management across sectors to realise commercial benefits, SMEs learning to facilitate change in embedding carbon management practices, addressing barriers to change, and ways barriers can be addressed to become Net Zero, for example, capacity building, finance, and culture change.

The proposed research investigates how UK-based SMEs can learn to deliver change for embedding carbon management in their business operations and value chain. The research will explore how SMEs can develop capacity to facilitate change and reduce carbon emissions, understand the barriers to implementing carbon management and the ways barriers can be overcome. In this study, SMEs will act as learning organisations, with an emphasis of embedding knowledge, in this case carbon management, into a business organisation. The research looks at the nexus between carbon management, organisational learning and change in the context of SMEs.

The research will adopt mixed methods approach. Quantitative and qualitative data will be collected with the help of a questionnaire and interviews to meet the research aim and objectives. Case studies with a selected number of SMEs will also be conducted for an in-depth investigation. SMEs who received funded support from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) Sustainability in Enterprise (SiE) project at Nottingham Trent University, UK and SMEs who did not receive the support will form part of the research study.

Application Enquiries:

Entry qualifications

An applicant should normally hold a Master’s degree at distinction or merit level of a UK university or an equivalent qualification. International students will also need to meet the English language requirements - IELTS 6.5 (with minimum sub-scores of 6.0). Applicants who have taken a higher degree at a UK university are normally exempt from the English language requirements.

How to apply

Please visit our how to apply page for a step-by-step guide and make an application.

Application deadline: Friday 30 June 2023.

Fees and funding

This opportunity is for self-funded PhD students. Applicants are encouraged to apply for external funding and we will support this process if and when required. Find out about fees and funding for PhD projects.

Guidance and support

Find out about guidance and support for PhD students.

Still need help?

Dr Muhammad Mazhar