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Responsible and Sustainable Business Lab (RSB Lab) Research Centre

Unit(s) of assessment: Business and Management Studies

Research theme: Sustainable Futures

School: Nottingham Business School


The Responsible and Sustainable Business Lab (RSB Lab) was founded in 2015 by Professor Mollie Painter and Nottingham Business School (NBS), with the goal of supporting income generation, publication and business impact within the business school and across disciplines at NTU.  The RSB Lab pulls together transdisciplinary teams to address complex research questions on responsible and sustainable business, primarily through interdisciplinary research outputs and grant proposals.  The RSB Lab has four interrelated research streams, and staff aligned to the centre fall within one or more of these streams:

  1. Ethics, Innovation and Entrepreneurship
  2. CSR and Corporate Governance
  3. Teaching and Learning
  4. Energy and the Environment

The RSB Lab leads multiple research projects under each of these themes on various dimensions of business' role in fostering sustainable societies by means of responsible values-driven business.  The RSB Lab’s vision is to carry out research that combines academic excellence with impact.  Further details on how the RSB Lab is driving change towards sustainable and responsible business practices can be found here:

Stream 1: Ethics, Innovation and Entrepreneurship

This stream is led by Mollie Painter and Emrah Karakilic, and addresses important research questions on how processes, dynamics, habits and managerial thinking may undermine ethics and sustainability.  The overriding goal is to pioneer research that challenges everyday assumptions through philosophical thinking and practice.  Research priorities include:

  • Processes and dynamics that may undermine ethics and sustainability;
  • Upcycling as an instance of social entrepreneurship and as a waste management strategy;
  • Understanding why certain unethical practices and unsustainable habits persist;
  • Challenge business practitioners to question ingrained ways of thinking and being;
  • Draw on philosophical thinking and practice to challenge everyday assumptions.

Stream 2: CSR and Corporate Governance

This stream is led by Wendy Chapple, and focuses on core business practice, and drivers and processes that underpin business engagement with responsible and sustainable business agendas.  This stream addresses important research questions on corporate outputs and impact, through the lens of multi-disciplinary research on corporate responsibility, corporate sustainability and corporate governance. Research priorities include:

  • Integrating sustainability across the value chain and global production networks;
  • Developing sustainability models for business of various sizes across the globe;
  • Business partnerships and international development;
  • Understanding integrated reporting formats and other dimensions of sustainability accounting and control;
  • Social and environmental strategy;
  • Accountability and enterprise risk management and responsible investment.

Stream 3: Teaching and Learning

Petra Molthan-Hill leads research in this stream on the conceptual foundations and practical strategies that are used in business schools and universities when teaching students about values-driven, responsible and sustainable business.  This includes leading initiatives that prepare students to deal with the dilemmas that managers and employees face in making choices that are technically sound, ethically responsible, sustainable, and culturally sensitive.  See also the Green Academy.

Led by Mollie Painter and Elmé Vivier, the teaching and learning stream integrates research on ethical organizational culture, ethical decision-making and leadership, with the design and delivery of executive development programmes. Research in the stream focuses on enabling managers and employees to speak up in the face of ethical wrongdoing, and to find responsible and systemic solutions to ethical dilemmas. Research priorities include:

  • Understanding moral behaviour and decision-making
  • Giving voice to values in everyday business practice
  • Speaking-out and whistleblowin
  • Ethical leadership in the African contex
  • Finding ways to collaborate across organisations and sectors
  • Talent Management

Stream 4: Energy and the Environment

Anna Ozolina manages this stream in cooperation with Professor Rob Ackrill and the AEPA research group, and Michael Zhang (editor of The Journal of Sustainable Mobility 2014-2016). This collaborative engagement helps to ensure that interdisciplinary perspectives are fully integrated in its research on energy and the environment, and sustainability management and accounting. Research priorities include:

  • Social and environmental strategy;
  • Accountability and enterprise risk management;
  • Sustainable Mobility - Ultra Low Emission Vehicle technology;

Critical Perspectives on Responsible and Sustainable Business

Across each of our streams the RSB Lab draws on multi-disciplinary perspectives including arts, humanities and the natural and social sciences to explore alternative ways of organising, and creative ways of thinking about capitalism and its practices. We challenge managerial orthodoxy about “sustainable business”, and question the methods and approaches that can lead to the marginalisation of alternative ways of conceptualising the relationship between business, sustainability and ethics.

The RSB Lab plays a central role in building a research culture by:

  • Developing the research skills and capacities of our early career researchers;
  • Hosting sessions on publishing, methodology, academic writing, and bespoke research seminars with leading academics and editors;
  • Providing internal research support on paper writing and the development of grant proposals;
  • Pursuing innovative research projects and grant proposals in line with the RSB Lab vision and critical approach.

PhD Studentships

We’re offering fully-funded PhD studentships aligned with our research centres for UK, EU or International students. Find out more about our PhD studentships.


The RSB Lab works with an extensive network of associates, visiting scholars and collaborators, both within NTU and the wider academic and practitioner community. The following provides brief examples of RSB Lab collaborations:

REAL-Network (Research on Ethical African leadership Network) and the Values-driven leadership Africa programme.  The REAL-Network brings together international academics and African leaders from across sectors who are alumni of a bespoke executive leadership programme entitled ‘Values-driven leadership in Africa”. The REAL-Network is an online executive leadership development and research network led by the RSB Lab at Nottingham Trent University.

External collaborators include:

  • ABIS (the Academy of Business in Society);
  • University of Stellenbosch Business School, South Africa;
  • Gordon Institute of Business Science, South Africa;
  • Strathmore Business School, Kenya;
  • Personnel from business and third sector organisations in Egypt, Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria.

For further information please contact Mollie Painter.

Sustainable Futures – NTU Strategic Research Theme. Wendy Chapple (Deputy Lead for Sustainable Futures) and Mollie Painter have been involved in leading the development of NTU’s Strategic Research Theme. TheSustainable Futures Steering Group with Wendy Chapple as Chair consolidates and develops NTU’s research in this area, with a view to positioning NTU as a leader with an international reputation in this field.  This involves collaborations with researchers and research directors across NTU.

Related staff

Core RSB Lab team:

Mollie Painter (RSB Lab director, Research lead: Ethics, Innovation and Entrepreneurship)

Wendy Chapple (Deputy Lead for Sustainable Futures and Research Lead: CSR and Corporate Governance)

Anna Ozolina (Research Fellow: Energy and the Environment)

Emrah Karakilic (Research Fellow: Ethics, Innovation and Entrepreneurship)

Natalie Toms (Research Assistant)

Elmé Vivier (Senior Research Fellow: Pedagogy and Talent Development)

Other core members:

Mumin Abubakre

Rob Ackrill (Energy and the Environment)

Adrian Castell

Phil Considine

Aldilla Dharmasasmita

Raj Ghosh

Stephanie Giamporcaro

Alex Hiller

Daniel Hjorth

Robin Holt

Marius Van-Dijke

Ishan Jalan

Daniel King

Michael McCann

Petra Molthan-Hill

Tabani Ndlovu

Lynn Oxborrow

Usha Ramanathan

Lisa Siebers

Nester Valero-Silva

Michael Zhang

Xiaozheng Zhang


Vivier, E., De Jongh, D. and Thompson, L. (2020). Public leadership and participation: understanding the experiences of South African local government officials’ engagement within informal settlements in the Western Cape, Public Management Review, 14 May 2020, DOI: 10.1080/14719037.2020.1764082

Vivier, E. and Sanchez, D. (2020). Community leaders as intermediaries: how everyday practices create and sustain leadership in five informal settlements in Cape Town, Leadership, July 2020, DOI:

Painter-Morland, M., Hibbert, S., Pouryousefi, S. And Russon, J., 2018. Sharing Vocabularies: Towards Horizontal Alignment Of Values-Driven Business Functions. Journal of Business Ethics.

Painter-Morland, M., Demuijnck, G. And Ornati, S., 2017. Sustainable Development and Well-Being: A Philosophical Challenge. Journal of Business Ethics. 146 (2), pp. 295-311

Molthan-Hill, P., 2017. The Business Student's Guide to Sustainable Management: Principles and Practice. Principles for Responsible Management Education. Abingdon: Routledge.

Ramanathan, R., Ramanathan, U. And Bentley, Y., 2017. The Debate on Flexibility of Environmental Regulations, Innovation Capabilities and Financial Performance - A Novel Use of Dea. Omega.

De Leeuw, S., Dullaert, W. And Ouaderzan, A., 2017. Ecologically Friendly Sourcing In Developing Countries: A Non-Food Case Study. Logistics, 1 (1), P. 6.

Blundell, R.K., Smith, D.J., Ackrill, R. And Schaefer, A., 2018. Making 'Greener' Connections: An Introduction to the Special Issue. The International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, 19 (1), Pp. 3-8.

Hjorth, D. And Reay, T., 2018. Organization Studies: moving entrepreneurially ahead. Organization Studies, 39 (1), pp. 7-18

Karakilic, E., (In Press). Why do humans remain central to knowledge work in the age of robots? Marx’s Fragment on machines and beyond. Work, Employment and Society. ISSN 0950-0170

Karakilic, E., (In Press). Idleness as a micro ethico-political action. Organization. ISSN 1350-5084

Karakilic, E., 2019. Rethinking intellectual property rights in the cognitive and digital age of capitalism: an autonomist Marxist reading. Technological Forecasting & Social Change, 147, pp. 1-9. ISSN 0040-1625