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08 June 2023

United Kingdom

Responsible and Sustainable Business Lab (RSB Lab)

Responsible and Sustainable Business Lab (RSB Lab)

Name of the research center:

Responsible and Sustainable Business Lab (RSB Lab)

Research Center contact:

Professor Mollie Painter, Lead RSB Lab

mollie.painter@ntu.ac.uk

How many sustainability-focused researchers are part of the center (#)?

More than 15

Implementation of SDG-focused research centers

Nottingham Business School (NBS) is committed to enabling a culture of Ethics, Responsibility and Sustainability (ERS) across the school, and our ERS work on education, research and partnerships has influenced and led the University strategy and practice. Nottingham Trent University (NTU) and NBS has a strategy 2020-25, ‘University reimagined’, incorporating ‘Embracing Sustainability’ as a key strategic theme. NBS has adopted the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a key framework as part of the formal curriculum for all its programmes, research and partnership activities. The advantages of using SDGs as a framework for sustainability, rather than just focusing on the concept itself, has proven to be an effective approach to NBS development. NBS remains committed to PRME principles and SDG integration to ensure that our students are exposed to and can engage with the ideas of sustainable and responsible management. One of the School’s seven learning goals states students should be able to “critically evaluate ethical and sustainability-based issues within their field of study”. Our ambition to prepare forward-thinking and responsible graduates is delivered through both the formal curricula and the provision of co-curricular opportunities such as volunteering and public engagement as part of Continuing Professional Development (CPD). Research in the area of sustainability and SDGs is one of NBS’ strengths and is mainly led by the Responsible and Sustainable Business (RSB) Lab. Governance structure and resources are in place to extend our work in relation to sustainability and SDGs and engage faculty widely. NBS has a Sustainability Coordinator and Academic Lead for PRME, and all five departments have Sustainability/PRME Representatives to support the integration of SDGs and sustainability into the curriculum. RSB Lab team supports responsible and sustainable management research. The school has invested significantly in this area.

In which ways is research fostered, motivated, or incentivized by leadership in the institution

Encouragement of research within Nottingham Business School (NBS) comes in a variety of forms and reflects the central importance of academically rigorous and societally-relevant research to the school. The Associate Dean for Research is responsible for developing the School’s research strategy. A key element of that strategy is the building of research capacity and capability and the deployment of a comprehensive infrastructure of research support which enables all colleagues to optimise their individual research potential, and thereby the collective potential of the school. Support comes in the form of financial resources to initiate research projects, developmental support in the form of training and skills building, and allocations of ring-fenced research time. Research is further fostered through investment in research `tools of the trade’ such as databases, software, laboratory space and specialist equipment and through study leave and visiting scholar programmes. In NBS, nine inclusive research centres provide natural, themed communities of scholars with common interests. Research performance is a major element in performance review and promotion processes, so that there are explicit incentives for delivering excellence. There is a strong emphasis on augmenting the research resource basis by securing external research funding and specialist training in bid development has generated significant recent uplift in grant capture across a wide range of national and international funding bodies. At the same time, NBS has been conspicuously successful in securing institutional strategic research funding, with investment in new research centres of circa £8 million in the last two years. All the above measures translate into increasing research confidence, performance, and culture.

Percentage of resources is directed toward sustainability-oriented research at your institution

Estimating the precise percentage of aggregate resource which is invested in sustainability-oriented research at NBS is not straightforward, largely due to the fact that sustainability-related themes are widely present across the breadth of what is a large school. There is, however, ample evidence that investment in this area is substantial. Sustainability research at NBS centres mainly on the work of the Responsible and Sustainable Business Lab, one of NBS’s nine research centres. The RSB Lab receives recurrent funding to support its core staff of professors and associate professors and a team of full-time researchers from Senior Research Fellow to Research Assistant. This sustainability-focused funding, on its own, accounts for perhaps 15% of direct funding of research staff across the school. However, beyond the RSB Lab, many colleagues in the other research centres work on sustainability-related themes including low energy neighborhoods, electric vehicles, and smart waste management/recycling as examples. All of these colleagues can draw on the battery of School-funded research support which is described in the previous section. This includes access to pump-priming and Seedcorn funds which support the development of new research initiatives. Further financial support is available to NBS academics via the funding opportunities offered by the University’s strategic research theme, Sustainable Futures. Taken together, the various forms of investment in research which specifically support sustainability and SDGs amounts to in the region of 25% of aggregate research investment.

Main focus of the center's work

The RSB Lab’s vision is to carry out research that combines academic excellence with impact. The RSB Lab is driving change towards sustainable and responsible business practices. The purpose of the RSB Lab is to pull together transdisciplinary teams of experts across NBS as well as across the University to address complex research questions in the area of Ethics, Responsibility and Sustainability as well as SDGs and to develop interdisciplinary grant proposals and research papers to generate impact.

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.

  1. Energy and Environment

  2. Teaching and Learning

  3. Ethics, Innovation and Entrepreneurship

  4. CSR and Corporate Governance

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 conceptualizing the relationship between business, sustainability, and ethics.

How many sustainability/SDG-oriented publications are produced by the center(s) each year on average? Please separate your response into peer-reviewed articles and other publications.

NBS produced a large number of sustainability/SDG-oriented publications. The numbers include academics and outputs from research centres in NBS including the RSB Lab.

2020= out of 381 listed outputs, 121 were estimated to be SDG related (32%)

2021= out of 337 listed outputs, 129 were estimated to be SDG related (38%)

2022= out of 269 listed outputs, 94 were estimated to be SDG related (35%)

The outputs include various forms such as journal article, conference contribution, book chapter and research report for an external body.

Explain briefly how research carried out in the center feeds into teaching, giving examples of modules/courses or related degree programmes.

Research carried out by academics in the RSB Lab and other NBS research centres feeds into teaching and learning activities through modules and courses. It also significantly feeds into executive education and corporate training programmes. Some of the examples are below:

  • The RSB Lab is co-facilitating Carbon Literacy Training to SMEs across Nottingham. Carbon Literacy is an accredited training scheme which is run by the Carbon Literacy Project (CLP) to embed sustainable behaviour changes within an organisation. The sustainability training improves staff awareness of the carbon costs and the impacts of their everyday activities. It also empowers individuals, communities, and organisations to be aware of how their actions can reduce emissions.

  • Values Driven Leadership Training: The REAL-Network (Research on Ethical African leadership 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.

  • NBS launched earlier this year a Nottingham Leadership Transformation Programme. Participants receive 20 credits at Level 7 in Leading People and Innovation in Organisations. It is offered to Nottingham City Council, National Health Service (NHS), Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service and Nottinghamshire Police. Cohort 2 is currently underway, and each cohort includes managers from all organisations. Dr Mel Bull is the programme lead. Unit topics were co-designed with the organisations, and include leading ethically and responsibly in complex systems, managing projects, risk and crisis, communication, engagement and building successful relationships, and innovation and creativity.

  • 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.

  • Nottingham Business School MBA and Executive 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.

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.


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