business and green
growth research

The green economy presents a far-reaching opportunity for business transformation. Our research shows that the number of firms supplying low-carbon, pro-environmental and pro-social goods and services in the East Midlands has seen significant and steady growth over the last decade. At the same time, the health, energy and economic shocks of the last few years mean that all firms need to focus on energy and resource efficiency, waste management, green skills of the future and sustainability in their operations and supply chains.

Our research and practical resources help firms understand the challenges, barriers, enablers and opportunities presented by sustainable business and green growth. We also work with Pro-Environmental Enterprise Support (PEES) providers and regional bodies to understand and improve provision that accelerates the transition to a fully sustainable economy.

Our aims

Our Sustainable Business Research Cluster has a strong track record of researching how low-carbon, pro-environmental and pro-social enterprises respond to the green growth agenda. We also strive to ensure research knowledge is applied in real-world business settings and makes a practical difference to the business leaders we support.

In addition to helping hundreds of local pro-environmental firms find opportunity in the green economy through our EU-funded business support programmes (DE-Carbonise, Net Zero Accelerator and the Low Carbon Business Network), our applied research has informed regional policy, supported business development projects across the country and contributed to a highly regarded Research Impact Case Study as part of REF 21.

For example, one of our current research projects, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is dedicated to achieving economic, social, and environmental sustainability within the ready-made garment and fashion sector. This involves establishing the Autonomy Lab and Leicester Accord.

Our aim is to:

Research Cluster Team

  • Dr Polina Baranova: green growth, sustainable business, multi-stakeholder partnerships, environmental capability building, environmental strategy
  • Dr Sharanya Basu Roy: environmental & natural resource economics
  • Dr Eghosa Ekhator: international environmental law, natural resource governance
  • Professor Carley Foster: responsible customer engagement
  • Dr Bruno Gallotta: sustainable business operations, smart manufacturing, circular economy, clean growth
  • Chris Jones: sustainable food choices, sustainable menu design, sustainable food service operations, education for sustainable development, sustainability in the curriculum
  • Ken Kaweesa: sustainable marketing
  • Professor Qile He (Horace): sustainable business, green financial performance
  • Dr Barbara Tomasella: corporate social responsibility in SMEs, sustainable tourism, education for sustainable development & social marketing, cross-sector partnerships
  • Dr Hassam Waheed: clean growth trends, consumer behaviour, positive social norms
  • Dr Andrews Owusu: environmental auditing, environmental social governance (ESG)

PhD Students

  • Eisen Matthew
  • David Durie
  • Izu Obani
  • Lauren Thompson
  • Artur Wlodarczyk
  • Abdulla Alremeithi
  • Abrar Alblooshi
  • Hamad Alsawafi
  • Hessa Almansoori
  • Jessica Lozano-Leon

Our research

Our team of researchers work with academic colleagues across the College of Business, Law and Social Sciences, the wider University and experts from other institutions. We also collaborate with external stakeholders, such as SMEs, corporate companies, local councils, sector and professional bodies. This ensures our research reflects the increasing importance of pro-environmental business and informs new business practice and policy developments at local, regional and national levels.

Our academic team has researched and published in the following areas:

THRREADS: Transforming Responsive and Relational Autonomy in the Garment Sector of the United Kingdom and Bangladesh

Led by Professor Alam, the THRREADS aims to ensure economic, social and environmental justice within the garment industry, thereby improving theoretical frameworks, policies, and practical applications. The global garment industry involves approximately 60 million workers, a considerable number of whom hold jobs in precarious, marginalised, low-wage, and impoverished conditions.

This initiative focuses on two specific areas, Dhaka in Bangladesh and Leicester in the UK, where the garment sector plays a crucial role in the local economy. Despite the distinctiveness of these locations, they both have experienced recent incidents of tragedy and scandal, shedding light on exploitative labour practices, prompting inquiries into the efficacy of legislation, and emphasising the need for international economic collaboration to foster both growth and justice.

Our project is driven by a distinctive collaboration between academia and practical application and mainly focuses on the following objectives:

The Net Zero Pathway for SMEs

Based on our experience of delivering practical support to SMEs since 2015, our researchers (Paterson, Gallotta and Baranova) developed '12 Opportunities on Journey to Net Zero Guides' and the 'Net Zero Pathway for SMEs' web resources to help demystify the steps needed to become a sustainable business.

The pathway provides links to support, resources and funding that will help your business get on the pathway to net zero by reducing emissions, regenerating the environment, and winning new business as we all move towards a cleaner, greener and sustainable future.

Green Growth Regional Trends

Since 2015, our team (Paterson, Baranova and Gallotta) have been undertaking a longitudinal study of the Green Growth Trends in the East Midlands in collaboration with the East Midlands Chamber. This ongoing research analyses an annual survey of over 300 businesses operating in the East Midlands and reveals the trends of engagement with green growth, demand for green skills development and pro-environmental business support. The trends analysis confirms major differences in how large and small businesses engage with green growth and the challenges they face. 

Find out more about Green Growth Trends in the East Midlands 2023

Multi-stakeholder Collaboration for Sustainable Development 

Co-led by Professor Qile He and Dr Polina Baranova, a 2 two-year British Academy funded project seeks to understand the challenges of collaborations that involve multiple stakeholders in the Net Zero policy agenda. The project aims to develop collaborative strategies for policy, business support providers and businesses towards Net Zero in the East Midlands. Collaborative mechanisms, governance approaches and action-based policy toolkit will be developed as part of the project.

Smart Factory Project

As part of the DE-Carbonise programme, Superior Wellness worked with Dr Bruno Gallotta to install smart monitoring in their warehouse.  A real-time energy data dashboard provides a holistic overview of the environmental performance of the business, including the cost to the business and the tonnes of CO2 produced.

The information was used to make improvements in operational efficiency and generate energy savings. Potential faults and sources of energy wastage can easily be spotted in the data trends including machine idle time versus utilisation. The case study showed that the company identified inefficiencies in gas usage that could save the company up to 30% on energy bills.

Read the Superior Wellness case study

Research Exchange Forum

The Sustainable Business and Green Growth Research Cluster regularly host seminars on the broad theme of Sustainable Futures. These seminars aim to share cutting-edge and empirically sound insight into the roles that business, law, social science and policy play in accelerating the shift to a ‘Net Zero’ and an abundant future.

Join us

Whether you are interested in joining the research centre team, applying for a PhD or collaborating on research, we welcome approaches in the areas of:

To discuss your ideas, email Professor Alam at


Baranova, P. (2024). Multi-stakeholder networks as learning settings towards pro-environmental entrepreneurship: Learning through the diversity and policy–practice interface, International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

Paterson, F., Gallotta, B. & Baranova, P. (2024). Building an empirically grounded conceptual frame for business networking as a mechanism for pro-environmental business growth. Local Economy, 38:5, 484-585.

Tomasella, B., Akbar, B., Lawson, A. and Howart, R. (2024). Embedding the sustainable development goals (SDGs) into the Higher Education marketing curriculum. Journal of Marketing Education, (in press).

Akbar, M. B., Azara, I., Lawson, A., & Tomasella, B. (2023). Social marketing as a behaviour change strategy to increase tourists’ pro-environmental behaviour. In Handbook on Tourism and Behaviour Change (pp. 138-155). Edward Elgar Publishing. 

Baranova, P. (2023). Green Growth Trends in the East Midlands. University of Derby. 

Baranova, P. (2023). Place-based business support towards net zero: enabling through the place-policy-practice nexus. The Journal of the British Academy. Issue: Societal and Governance Factors on the Road to Net Zero 11(4): 57-95. 

Li, M., Wang, L., Liu, Z. and He, Q. (2023). Regional logistics, carbon emission index and green financial performance enhancement configuration: a comparative study based on 30 Chinese provinces. Frontiers of Energy Research. 11, 1-15. 

Xiong, A., Xia, S., He, Q., Ameen, N., Yan, J., & Jones, P. (2023). When Will Employees Accept Remote Working? The Impact of Gender and Internet Skills. Journal of Innovation & Knowledge, 8(3), 100402. 

Rafiq, S.,  Paramati, S., Alam, S. et al. (2023). Does institutional quality matter for renewable energy promotion in OECD economies. International Journal of Finance & Economics (ABS-3) Alam et al. (2024). Is Monetary Policy a Driver of Cryptocurrencies? Evidence from a Structural Break GARCH-MIDAS Approach, Econometrics. 

Baranova, P. (2022). Environmental capability development in a multi-stakeholder network setting: dynamic learning through multi-stakeholder interactions. Business Strategy and the Environment. 2022, pp. 1-15.

Baranova, P., Paterson, F. and Gallotta, B. (2022). Green Growth Trends in the East Midlands 2022. University of Derby Business Law and Social Science at University of Derby.

Paterson, F., Baranova, P., & Gallotta, B. (2022). Towards a conceptual framework of enterprise support for pro-environmental small and medium-sized enterprises: A contextualised review of diverse knowledge domains. Local Economy, 37(3), 142–168. 

Basu Roy, S. & Ghosh Dastidar, S. (2021). Are Environmental Taxes Effective in Curbing Air Pollution? Evidence from the United Kingdom. Economic Issues, Volume 26, Issue 2, pages 73-101.

Gallotta, B., Paterson, F. and Baranova, P. (2021). Pro-environmental business and clean growth trends for the East Midlands 2021. University of Derby.

Paterson, F. (2021). Green Jobs and Green Skills in the East Midlands. University of Derby.

Baranova, P., Paterson, F., & Gallotta, B. (2020). Configuration of enterprise support towards the clean growth challenge: a place-based perspective. Local Economy, pp. 1-25.

Roy, S.B. (2020). Effective Environmental Protection and Regulatory Quality: A National Case Study of China. Environmental Policy: An Economic Perspective, pp.105-119.

Paterson, F., Baranova, P. and Gallotta, B. (2020). Pro-environmental business and clean growth trends for the East Midlands 2020. University of Derby.

Tomasella, B. and Ali A. (2019). The importance of personal values and hospitableness in small foodservice businesses’ social responsibility, Hospitality & Society, 9(3): 307-329.

Knight, B. & Paterson, F. (2018). Behavioural Competencies of Sustainability Leaders: An empirical investigation. Journal of Organizational Change Management. 31 (3), pp.557-580, 

Paterson, F. et al (2018). Key skills and training needs of the D2N2 low carbon and environmental goods and services (LCEGS) sector. University of Derby.

Roy, S.B. (2018). The Use of Economic Analysis of Law in the Context of Environmental Regulations. Global Jurist, vol. 18, no. 2, pp. 201.

Buildings and wind turbines

Strategies to support a greener economy

With the low-carbon economy critical to UK business growth, our researchers have pioneered effective strategies to support more firms to incorporate green practices into their operations.

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