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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 leads multiple research projects under each of the following streams 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 on the RSB Lab website.

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.
RSB lab logo

Stream 1: Ethics, Innovation and Entrepreneurship

This stream is led by Professor 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 Dr 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

Led by Professor 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 whistleblowing
  • Ethical leadership in the African context
  • Finding ways to collaborate across organisations and sectors
  • Talent Management

Research led by Professor Petra Molthan-Hill links to this stream, on the foundations and 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.

As people learn that climate change is anthropogenic, they realise they hold the key to mitigate it by embedding the right high-impact climate solutions and institutional policies addressing all SDGs and creating economic, social and environmental benefits.

Addressing this gap in the provision of climate change mitigation education, Carbon Literacy Training for Educators, Communities, Organizations and Students (CLT-ECOS) - a virtual Train-the-Trainer has been developed and upscaled by NBS, in collaboration with the UN Global Compact PRME Working Group on Climate Change in order to empower people to embed high-impact climate solutions in their personal, professional and community life. CLT-ECOS has been awarded Gold for Sustainability at the 2022 Wharton-QS Reimagine Education Awards.

Find out more about Carbon Literacy Training for business schools.

The most recent book authored by Petra can be found here. This book demonstrates how stories and storytelling can be consciously embedded into the curricula of any academic discipline in Higher Education to co-create a better future.

Stream 4: Energy and the Environment

Anna Ozolina is a Research Fellow in Sustainable Mobility and manages this stream in collaboration with other colleagues. This collaborative engagement helps to ensure that interdisciplinary perspectives are fully integrated in its research on energy and the environment, and sustainability management and strategy.

Research priorities include:

  • Sustainable Mobility - Ultra Low Emission Vehicle technology, strategy and policy in collaboration with Professor Rob Ackrill of the Centre for Economics, Policy and Public Management (in particular in relation to Energy, the Environment and Resources research strand), and Dr Michael Zhang of Centre for International Business, Strategy and Decisions. In addition, Ackrill and Zhang are co-Editors-in-Chief of ‘Sustainable Mobility’, an open access journal published by Sciendo.
  • Cooperative group modelling, and social and environmental strategy
  • Accountability and enterprise risk management.


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 (VDL) training 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.

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 See also ‘related projects’ for further details.

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

WE-DARE (Women's Equality: Digital Access and the Right to Expression) has been funded by a first phase UKRI GCRF DIDA (Digital Innovation for the Development of Africa) grant. Phase 1 (May 2020 - April 2021) granted seed funding to establish networks across a range of partners.

WE-DARE explores the intersection of women’s rights and digital innovation in Africa. The RSB Lab launched the project  in partnership with the Gordon institute of Business Science, University of Cape Town, Stellenbosch Business School and Lagos Business School, alongside several civic and tech organisations including:

  • WomaNiko
  • WI connect
  • Sonke Gender Justice
  • Praekelt
  • Triple Black Agency
  • Affect Lab
  • 1000 Women Trust
  • Open Up

WE-DARE Phase 1’s findings suggest that though many attempts have been made to address Gender-based Violence (GBV) via hotlines, apps, and other resources, women often don’t have access to these digital means. In fact, it may put them more at risk. Cultural and social barriers also exist that block the use of these technologies. In addition to this, most women do not know of a safe space to go if they experienced GBV. As such, more practical, grassroot solutions are needed to reach women and to co-create solutions to GBV with them. Our preliminary research findings suggest that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Instead, local communities need tailor-made and co-created solutions, to ensure that all women and GBV survivors can access the moral support, information and help that they need.

In collaboration with our partners, specific project proposals are being developed to seek funding to continue our network-building efforts. This includes projects focused on co-creating tailored solutions to GBV in interaction with local communities, disseminating information, educating the next generation of young people around their rights, and providing practical support for survivors.

For further information please contact

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 Responsible and Sustainable Business Lab

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

  • 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
  • Howard Cattermole - Sustainability in business: A voice from the future and its subversion by the market
  • 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 Wallace - Stakeholder approach to fracking in the midlands (DBA)
  • Raj Shah - Achieving sustainability in the composite electrical enclosure industry by applying lean principles supervisors (DBA)
  • 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
  • Natalie Toms
    Natalie Toms
  • Petra Molthan
    Petra Molthan Hill
  • Mumin Abulbakre
    Mumin Abulbakre
  • 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).

  • 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.
  • Chapple, W., Molthan-Hill, P., Welton, R. and Hewitt, M. (2019) Lights off, spot on: carbon literacy training crossing boundaries in the television industry. Journal of Business Ethics.
  • Farias, C., Fernandez, P., Hjorth, D. and Holt, R. (2019) Organizational entrepreneurship, politics and the political. Entrepreneurship & Regional Development, 31 (7-8), pp. 555-566.
  • Gutierrez-Huerter O, G., Moon, J., Gold, S. and Chapple, W. (2019) Micro-processes of translation in the transfer of practices from MNE headquarters to foreign subsidiaries: the role of subsidiary translators. Journal of International Business Studies.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Pérezts, M., Russon, J-A. and Painter, M. (2019) This time from Africa: developing a relational approach to values-driven leadership. Journal of Business Ethics.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Related projects

Values Driven Leadership (VDL) training programme and impact research

Research on Ethical African Leadership Network (REAL-Network), is a maturing partnership between academics and practitioners in African DAC countries committed to combating ethical failures that can undermine service-delivery in various sectors. A key activity of the network is the delivery of the 'Values-driven leadership' (VDL) executive leadership training programme, which addresses the problem of systemic ethical failure in low and middle income (LMIC) economies.

The VDL programme is the result of collaborations between academic and non-academic partners (business, government and NGOs) in South Africa, Kenya and the UK and it seeks to empower leaders to give ‘voice to their values’ (GVV) when confronted with systemic pressures to act unethically.  (It draws upon Mary Gentile’s novel GVV pedagogical approach that equips leaders to develop levers of influence, persuasive responses, and alternative scripts that help them counter the rationalisations of unethical behaviour that they may face).

See also ‘Collaborations’ for further details.

Speak-out project

The RSB Lab and the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) in South Africa collaborated on a critical research project: Speaking-out against ethical failures. The project sought to better understand the experiences of people who have challenged ethical failures in their organisations. It aimed to develop practical insights and recommendations, identifying how to more effectively enable and encourage employees to speak out.

The project formed part of the Research on Ethical African Leadership Network (REAL-Network), a maturing partnership between academics and practitioners in African DAC countries committed to combating ethical failures that can undermine service-delivery in various sectors.

See below links for more detail and examples of associated online forums:

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

The network-building project, titled WE-DARE explores the intersection of women’s rights and digital innovation in Africa. The RSB Lab launched the project in June 2020, in partnership with the Gordon institute of Business Science, University of Cape Town, Stellenbosch Business School and Lagos Business School, alongside several civic and tech organisations.

The main goal of the research is to explore how access to digital platforms and innovation can protect and further basic women’s rights in Africa, focusing on addressing violence against women in the South African context. The main goal of the research will be achieved by reaching the following objectives:

O1. understanding the role of digital rights in addressing the effects of gender intersectionality

O2. enabling the employment of digital innovation to enhance participation and access for women across societal institutions

O3. protecting women’s rights to safety and equality

O4. enabling participation in civic life and access to democratic institutions

O5. improving women’s quality of life

The RSB Lab have been building the network, running engagements online and conducting ‘in person’ community focus groups in South Africa and Nigeria though their NGO partner networks.

See also ‘Collaborations’ for further details.

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.

Throughout 2020 and 2021, 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.