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Responsible and Sustainable Business Lab

Unit(s) of assessment: Business and Management Studies

Research theme: Sustainable Futures

School: Nottingham Business School


The RSB Lab’s vision is to carry out research that combines academic excellence with impact.

The RSB Lab’s research reimagines impactful organisational interventions aimed at enabling sustainable and responsible lives. We serve business, government and third sector organisations that want to improve their social, environmental and governance performance. We are a team of international scholars that bring diverse perspectives to the table, but collaborate easily, and build long-term strong partnerships with other institutions. The core team collaborates with a wide network of international scholars and NTU faculty across the business school and university.

The RSB Lab leads multiple research projects across various dimensions of business' role in fostering sustainable societies by means of responsible values-driven 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.

Events and Seminars

The RSB Lab hold regular meetings with guest speakers throughout the year, with the aim of supporting early researchers, encouraging interdisciplinary working and allowing a platform for enriching research debate.

Starting in 2020 and continuing through to 2023, The RSB Lab and the Work Futures Research Group, School of Social Sciences, are collaboratively running a new interdisciplinary seminar series, called the Subversive Seminar Series (ISSS). The seminars focus on provocative and polemical ideas/works, aimed at challenging contemporary orthodoxies in various fields, allowing us to listen and learn from our colleagues working in different disciplines or departments.

RSB lab team


The RSB Lab develops and disseminates research across four interrelated research streams, with staff typically aligned to the centre falling within one or more of these streams:

  • Ethics, Organisation and Society
  • Reimagining Theory and Practice
  • CSR and Corporate Governance
  • Energy, Environment and Net Zero
  • Teaching, Learning and Leadership Development

Each stream of the RSB Lab is now discussed with projects as indicative examples within the Lab and beyond.

This research stream addresses important research questions pertaining to how processes, norms, habits, and flawed assumptions at the heart of managerial thinking may undermine business ethics, societal governance and security, and sustainable lifestyles. Our overriding aim is to pioneer research that challenges everyday ethical assumptions and practices through philosophical analysis and practice. We also consider alternative ways of enabling ethical organisations and practices through systemic thinking, co-created solutions in partnership with the communities or organisations in question, thereby enabling courageous speaking and values-driven action.

Projects include:

1. WE-DARE! (Women's Equality: Digital Access and the Right to Expression)

We-Dare explores the intersections of gender-based violence and digital innovation. Phase 1 of We-Dare was funded by a GCRF DIDA grant in 2020-2021, but due to Covid all GCRF development funding was discontinued. With corporate support, we continued to work in 2022 with our partners (the Gordon Institute of Business Science at the University of Pretoria, and NGO partners: 1000 Women Trust, Cadena and Womaniko) on pilot projects, also to further the development of an Impact case for the next REF. Additional funding for pilot programmes co-created with our NGO partners were secured through the corporate sponsorship of Hollard and Woolworths. So far, the second phase of We-DARE received around £130,000 in corporate funding for two pilots in South Africa, administered via our local partner, GIBS at the University of Pretoria. These pilots entail direct engagements with the aim of addressing GBV and better supporting victims in particular contexts in cooperation with our partners. For example, the pilot project undertaken in cooperation with Woolworths and our NGO partner Womaniko entails Woolworths employees taking part in a multi-step programme facilitated by Womaniko that addresses GBV in the workplace. This pilot not only constitutes a direct intervention to address the perpetuation of GBV within parts of the larger Woolworths organisation, but also aim to track the impact of this kind of program via a entry- and exit-survey, utilising existing scales.

2. Speaking-Out Against Ethical Failures

In partnership with the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) at the University of Pretoria, the RSB Lab’s conducted research on whistle-blowing. By means of a Roundtable hosted at GIBS, and extensive interviews with prominent whistleblowers in South Africa, we produced the following: (i) data providing insight into the underlying patterns of whistle-blowing behavior and lack thereof; (ii) identification of risks and constraints that prevent people from speaking out; (iii) capacity-building of individual leaders to ‘give voice to their values’ through a tailored VDL executive training; (iv) development and support of organisational and sectoral initiatives and structures to enable whistle-blowing in South Africa, through a cross-sector dissemination workshop.

The project yielded a white paper, as well as an infographic, and online panel discussions:

Additional information sources:

This area of research covers a wide range of important discussions and advancements in the analysis of organizations, with a broad scope that includes theoretical, methodological, ontological, and epistemological aspects. Its goal is to identify and evaluate the influence of these discussions and advancements on organizational practices globally. In addition to focusing on more detailed analyses, this field also emphasizes the connections between intellectual progress, changes in the structures and practices of organizations, and larger societal, cultural, and institutional transformations.

Projects include:

1. Critical epistemologies project

We aim to address the current limitations of measurement tools and reporting frameworks focused on the assessment of sustainability and wellbeing initiatives, which we believe are insufficient because of the epistemological assumptions upon which it relies. In response, we intend to bring together teams of multidisciplinary experts working from a process-oriented perspective in order to experiment with a broader range of epistemologies, co-creating a process-driven approach to the assessment of sustainability and wellbeing.

2. Gig economy project

In this seedcorn-funded project, we have explored the lived work experiences of Deliveroo workers in Nottingham.

3. MayFly Books

Emrah Karakilic acts as an editor in MayFly Books, publishing engagements with all aspects of organization and critical social sciences that are theoretically astute, politically relevant and aesthetically engaging.

4. Organization (ABS 3*)

Emrah Karakilic acts as the book review editor of the journal, dedicated to the reimagining theory and practice in organisation studies.

5. Sample paper projects:

  • Karakilic, E. & Painter, M. 2022. The (un)surprising nature of creativity: A Deleuzian perspective on the temporality of the creative process. ephemera, 22(2): 83-110.
  • Karakilic, E. (2022). Rentierism and the commons: a critical contribution to Brett Christophers' rentier capitalism. Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space. 54 (2), 422-429.
  • Karakilic, E. (2020). Why do humans remain central to the knowledge work in the age of robots? Marx’s Fragment on machines and beyond. Work, Employment and Society. 36 (1).
  • Karakilic, E., 2019. Acting up with Hardt and Negri: Capitalism in biopolitical context. Management, 22 (3), pp. 496-506.
  • 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.

This stream focuses on core business practice, and drivers and processes that underpin business engagement with responsible and sustainable business agendas. The stream addresses important issues related to sustainability and CSR strategies and practices of firms through the lens of multi-disciplinary research on corporate responsibility, corporate sustainability, governance and strategy. It explores strategy processes and practices of tackling grand societal challenges within and between organisations, internationally as well as locally.

Research priorities include:

  • Processes and practices of strategizing (grand) societal challenges
  • Social and environmental strategy
  • Integrating sustainability across the value chain, in core business practices and strategies
  • Developing sustainability strategies and models for business of various sizes across the globe
  • Business partnerships for sustainable development
  • Multistakeholder initiatives and governance for grand challenges
  • Integrated reporting formats and other dimensions of sustainability accounting and control;
  • Accountability and impact assessment to inform enterprise risk management and responsible investment

Projects include:

1. A study to address how multinational and local firms strategize and tackle grand societal challenges (GSCs) in collaboration with a multitude of actors in the Maasai Mara. It includes a focus on how firms are involved in practices of staging and selling liberal market GSC solutions, temporal practices of strategizing GSCs, managing issues of opening and embedding strategy, and strategizing the geography of GSCs. It provides insights into how firms seek to contribute to and shape the formation of strategies for eco-conservation and community development. (Toke Bjerregaard)

2. A study which focuses on how top sustainability managers of multinational corporations strategize and embed concepts of grand challenges, such as the UN SDGs, in organizational processes with internal and external stakeholders. (Toke Bjerregaard)

3. A study concerning the reorganization of a creative professional service firm (architecture) as it systematically incorporates sustainability in its international service delivery. (Toke Bjerregaard)

4. The Sharing Vocabularies project emerged from conversations with corporate practitioners at a UN Global Compact Forum meeting, where concerns about the multiplicity of terms associated with values-driven business (e.g. ethics, integrity, social responsibility, compliance, sustainability) were expressed. The project set out to address the problem that diverse vocabularies are used to label business functions responsible for values-driven business, resulting in confusion over their meaning and scope and a lack of cooperation amongst functions. Please click here to view the Sharing Vocabularies project booklet.

In this stream we explore societal transitions to more sustainable energy systems. Areas of interest include: Net Zero transitions; renewable energy sources and nuclear, behavioural change at the individual, organisational and societal level, deliberative engagement on energy, creativity and imagination in transitions and the role of alternative forms of organising.

Projects include:

1. Policy Fellowship with The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero

The RSB Lab’s Dr Jacqueline Kirk is currently undertaking an 18 month ESRC Policy Fellowship, working directly with The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero on Net Zero Behavioural Science. The objective of this work is to enable academic knowledge exchange with central government whilst also facilitating the professional development of the academic in gaining insight into evidence-based policy making. Whilst embedded within the department, Dr Kirk has been working on a range of projects at the intersection between individual and organisational behaviour science in the transition to net zero, and has been successful in securing additional funding to facilitate fieldwork within the fellowship.

2. Carbon Management Workshop Programme

The Carbon Management Workshop Programme is being delivered as part of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to build in-house capacity of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Nottingham to move toward Net Zero and sustainability. Four practical and interactive 3-hour workshop sessions can help managers understand the business case for carbon management, how to measure carbon footprint of their business, develop carbon management measures/strategies and design a carbon management action plan.

3. Carbon Literacy Training (CLT)

Carbon Literacy Training supports organisations to understand how climate change will affect them and provides tools and knowledge to lower their carbon footprint, with typical realised carbon savings of 5-15% per person (Jacobs 2018).

The first Carbon CLT - CLT for Business Schools (CLT4BS) - was developed under the leadership of Professor Petra Molthan-Hill by Nottingham Business School, in collaboration with the UN PRME Champions, the international student organisation ‘oikos International’ and the Carbon Literacy Project. Several other business schools such as CBS in Denmark are using the material designed by NBS and deliver the training to their students, staff and business partners.

The second version distributed under the Creative Commons is the ‘Climate Literacy Training for Educators, Communities, Organisations and Students’ (CLT-ECOS) distributed worldwide; CLT-ECOS recently won the Sustainability (Gold) Award in the QS-Wharton Reimagine Education Awards:

Since winning the Gold Award in December 2021, CLT-ECOS is delivered in collaboration with QS World Merit; in 2022 for example through three trainings offered worldwide and taken by over 70 nations. Overall, the CLT-ECOS has reached over 10 000 people.

In November 2022, in partnership with the Carbon Literacy Project, Natalie Toms (the RSB Lab) delivered CLT to SMEs across Nottingham Business Improvement District (BID). The aim is to roll out the CLT to further organisations across the UK, with several already in the pipeline for 2023.

Find out more here:

In this stream we develop research-driven content and methods for teaching and learning. This includes integrating our research, particularly on ethics, leadership, climate change and sustainability, into under-graduate, post-graduate, and MBA courses, as well as into executive development and climate literacy programmes for organisations. We also actively support early career researchers and academics through writing retreats and workshops.

1. Nottingham Business School MBA modules

The Responsible and Sustainable Leadership module is taught across the MBA and Executive MBA programme as a standalone module, as well as being embedded in other aspects of the course. The module enables students to develop the insights, capabilities, and skills to create and maintain responsible, ethical, and sustainable business practices. A significant number of academics are involved in research informed teaching within RSB Lab and other NBS research centres. Some examples of modules in courses are final year undergraduate module Sustainability in Enterprise Project, Values Led Organisations modules in MBA, Cross Cultural Management in MSc. International Business and Corporate Governance and Accountability in MSc Finance and Accounting.

2. Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA)

The GLAA protects vulnerable and exploited workers. In March 2022, a programme was delivered by the RSB Lab to enhance cohesion and effectiveness of SLT level stakeholder relationships.

3. British Academy Writing Workshops: Publishing African Impact-related Research on Sustainability (PAIRS)

In 2023, the RSB Lab were awarded a BA grant to facilitate The PAIRS-project (Publishing African Impact-related Research on Sustainability: PAIRS). The purpose of this project is to host writing workshops that will equip early career sustainability researchers in South Africa to publish successfully in highly ranked international journals. Also, and equally urgently, there is a need for insights from the South on persistent sustainability challenges to be better communicated across and integrated into the international research landscape.

View the PAIRS-project poster.

4. Values Driven Leadership (VDL) programme and impact research (and the REAL Network)

The Values-Driven Leadership (VDL) executive education programme empowers leaders to act on their values and address ethical risks in their organisations and society, despite systemic pressures. The programme was developed in 2015 with a focus on the African continent, and in a collaboration between the Academy of Business in Society (ABIS), corporate members and business schools in South Africa, Kenya and Egypt. It is also based on NBS research on management education and ethical leadership. Workshops have been co-delivered with local partners in each of these countries, alongside Train-the-Trainer sessions and an alumni + researcher network, the Research on Ethical African Leadership (REAL) Network. This work has been supported through several stages of funding since 2016. Impact research of the VDL confirmed the importance of relational approaches to ethical leadership development. Research is currently underway to better understand the impact of the programme when rolled-out at scale, as it has been done in the public health sector in the Southern Cape region of South Africa. In 2022, an MOU with Strathmore Business School was signed to support future deliveries of the VDL with potential impact on policy and practice in the Kenyan context. View the VDL brochure for details of a previous VDL programme.

PhD Funding and opportunities

Find out everything you need to know about funding your doctoral studies – from tuition fees and loans, to studentships and external funding.

The RSB Lab currently supervise many students across a range of sustainability areas. Here is a sample:

  • Maimoona Waseem – Exploring the pros and cons of the adoption of sustainable practices in e-commerce supply chains in the UK.
  • Graham Needham - An investigation into the mechanisms that bring about accountability and change following corporate governance failures.
  • Houria Cherid - Sustainability through Servant Leadership: The role and behaviours of Sustainable Servant Leadership.
  • Huijun Chen - Engaging in sickness presenteeism: How do people decide? The decision-making process behind sickness presenteeism.
  • Johanna Oehlmann - 'Values Entrepreneuring': the political process of harnessing multiple hybridities.
  • Kelsey Francis - To what extent can sustainable finance tackle climate change and assist the UK in achieving carbon neutrality by 2050?
  • Matthew Wallis (DBA): An examination of community and corporate stakeholder-relations regarding the social license to operate of “Fracking” in the East Midlands.
  • Sattam Alrowais - Corporate Social Responsibility reporting amongst petrochemical firms in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA): Practice and perception.
  • Ural Arslangulo - Sustainable Motoring, Renewable Energy and Renewable Fuels: the role of the automotive industry.
  • Laura Dallman - Leading from within: How Leadership as practice shapes community organising and collective action: A study of an urban Sheffield neighbourhood.
  • Angela Enright (DBA) - The role of transformational learning in creating ethical and sustainable mindsets in Senior Leader Apprentices.
  • Banu Ozveri (VC Scholarship). Project: Technological transformation in the automotive sector and its implications for workers. Supervisors: Tom Vickers, Ricky Gee, Emrah Karakilic.
  • Petra Molthan
    Petra Molthan Hill
  • Ishan Jalan
    Ishan Jalan


The RSB Lab leads multiple research projects 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.  Here is a selection of recent publications, this is a just a small selection. Full details of all RSB Lab members' publications can be found on the Institutional Repository of Nottingham Trent University.

  • Painter, M., Hibbert, S. and Cooper, T. (2018). “The Development of Responsible and Sustainable Business Practice: Value, Mind-Sets, Business-Models”. Journal of Business Ethics. DOI: 10.1007/s10551-018-3958-3.

  • Farias, C., Fernandez, P., Hjorth, D. and Holt, R. (2019). Organizational entrepreneurship, politics and the political. Entrepreneurship & Regional Development, 31 (7-8), 555-566. DOI: 10.1080/08985626.2019.1599186.
  • Painter-Morland, M., Kirk, S. Deslandes, G. and Tansley, C. (2019). “Talent Management: The Good, the Bad, and the Possible”. European Management Review. DOI: 10.1111/emre.12171.
  • Painter, M., Pouryousefi, S., Hibbert, S. and Russon, J. (2019). “Sharing Vocabularies: Towards Horizontal Alignment of Values-Driven Business Functions”. Journal of Business Ethics. 155(4), 965-979. DOI: 10.1007/s10551-018-3901-7.
  • Sims, J., Palermo, O.  and Abubakre, M. (2019). Investigating liminality to understand the implications of  organisational sensebreaking – sensegiving processes on actors' social identity construction in the workplace. In: BAM2019 Conference proceedings. British Academy of Management. ISBN 9780995641327.

  • Pérezts, M., Russon, J-A. and Painter, M. (2020). This time from Africa: developing a relational approach to values-driven leadership. Journal of Business EthicsDOI: 10.1007/s10551-019-04343-0.
  • 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. 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. LeadershipDOI: 10.1177/1742715020940907.
  • Molthan-Hill, P., Luna, H., Wall, T., Puntha, H. and Baden, D. eds. (2020). Storytelling for Sustainability in Higher Education: An Educator's Handbook. Routledge. ISBN 9780367260262.
  • Nyberg, D., Wright C. and Kirk, J. (2020). ‘Fracking the future: the temporal portability of frames in political contests’. Organization Studies. 41, 175-196. DOI: 10.1177/0170840618814568.
  • Karakillic, E. (2020). Why do humans remain central to the knowledge work in the age of robots? Marx’s Fragment on machines and beyond. Work, Employment and Society. 36 (1). DOI: 10.1177/0950017020958901.
  • Ackrill, R. and Abdo, H. (2020). On-Farm Anaerobic Digestion Uptake Barriers and Required Incentives: A case study of the UK East Midlands region. Journal of Cleaner Production. 264. DOI:10.1016/j.jclepro.2020.121727.

  • Painter, M., Pérezts, M. and Deslandes, G. (2021). “Understanding the human in stakeholder theory: a phenomenological approach to affect-based learning”. Management Learning. 52(2), 203-223. DOI: 10.1177/1350507620978860.
  • Kirk, J. Nyberg, D. and Wright, C. (2021). Divided yet united: Balancing convergence and divergence in environmental movement mobilization. Environmental Politics. DOI: 10.1080/09644016.2021.1981082.

  • Vivier, E., Painter, M., Pogrund, G. and Myers, K. (2022). What an ethics management program cannot sufficiently address in an African context: An ethics survey’s results read through a Levinasian lens, Business and Professional Ethics Journal. DOI: 10.5840/bpej2022617121.
  • Karakilic, E. and Painter, M. (2022). The (un)surprising nature of creativity: a Deleuzian perspective on the temporality of the creative process. Ephemera: Theory and Politics in Organization. 22 (2), 83. ISSN 2052-1499.
  • Matser, I., Teerikangas, S. and Painter, M. (2022). Guest editorial: Best sustainability teaching practices, Journal of International Education in Business. 15(1), 1-8. DOI: 10.1108/JIEB-04-2022-100.
  • Karakilic, E. (2022). Rentierism and the commons: a critical contribution to Brett Christophers' rentier capitalism. Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space. 54 (2), 422-429. ISSN 0308-518X.
  • Den Hond, F. and Painter, M. (2022). Editorial Musings on What Makes the Blood Flow in Business Ethics Research. Business Ethics Quarterly. 32 (1), 1-11. DOI:10.1017/beq.2021.51.
  • Beyes, T., Hui Kyong Chun, W., Clarke, J., Flyverbom, M., and Holt, R. (2022). Ten Theses on Technology and Organization: Introduction to the Special Issue. Organization Studies, 43(7), 1001-1018.
  • Hjorth, D., and Reay, T. (2022). Organizational and Institutional Entrepreneuring: Introduction to the Special Issue. Organization Studies, 43(2), 159-177.
  • Hjorth, D., and Holt, R. (2022). Entrepreneurship and the Creation of Organization. Oxford: Routledge.

  • Vivier, E. (2023). Place leadership in social accountability initiatives. Journal of Change Management. 23(1), 72-92. DOI: 10.1080/14697017.2023.2172446.
  • Bjerregaard, T. and Jeppesen, F. (2023). Framing strategy under high complexity: Processes and practices of reframing in the ongoing becoming of strategy. European Management Journal. DOI: 10.1016/j.emj.2022.03.007.
  • Holt, R., and Wiedner, R. (2023). Technology, Maturity, and Craft: Making Vinyl Records in the Digital Age. Business Ethics Quarterly.