Sustainability Lab

Industrial & Societal Sustainability Transitions

Accelerating the transitions needed to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals

Lab Mission

We aim to connect practitioners and researchers at the forefront of industry and society transitions towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Our goal is to help them work together to speed up those transitions by advancing knowledge and learning in organizations and across industry ecosystems.

The UN SDGs represent the roadmap for how we address today’s most pressing global challenges including:

  • The existential threats of the climate and biodiversity crises
  • Achieving a life of dignity for all, free from poverty and hunger
  • Ensuring human rights are respected
  • Protecting the right to equality and freedom from discrimination
  • Encouraging wider peace and freedoms

Lab Impact

Our work is to achieve action on the complex, interconnected challenges at the heart of the UN SDGs. This requires constellations of leaders from all sorts of organizations—governmental, intergovernmental, civil society, private and public sector—working together through coalitions.

In Hult's Sustainabilty Impact Lab, our focus is on advancing this emerging understanding of how to lead change across systems to achieve the society and industry transitions we need—and share that learning to help accelerate those changes.

Lab Director


Meet Matt Gitsham, PhD

Matt is the Director of Hult’s Sustainabilty Impact Lab. He specializes in sustainable development, human rights, and organizational change.

Matt has led numerous research projects on business and sustainable development and human rights for nearly two decades at Hult. These include exploring CEO perspectives on the implications of sustainability for business leadership, CEO advocacy for more ambitious government intervention on sustainable development, the role of business in shaping the UN SDGs, how companies are embedding the SDGs (in partnership with Business Fights Poverty), and corporate leadership on Modern Slavery (in partnership with the Ethical Trading Initiative). Matt has worked closely with networks including the UN Global Compact and Business in the Community, and companies including Unilever, IBM, HSBC, GSK, De Beers, Cemex, and Pearson.

Matt has led many courses on Business for Society, Sustainable Development, and Human Rights themes across Hult’s postgraduate and undergraduate degree programs, and is a frequent contributor to Hult/EF Corporate Education programs for many custom executive education clients around the world. He also supervises several doctoral students. Matt is based at Hult’s Ashridge House campus in the UK.

Matt is a frequent contributor to industry and academic conferences and is widely published in the business and academic press. His research has featured in the Economist, the Financial Times and the Harvard Business Review, as well as at the World Economic Forum in Davos and the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights. He served as part of the original taskforce to develop the UN Principles for Responsible Management Education, and is closely involved in work to embed ethics, responsibility, and sustainability themes across the management education curriculum.

Matt was awarded the "Rising Star" award as part of the Aspen Institute-Academy of Business in Society European Faculty Pioneer Awards, made annually to honor business school faculty who have demonstrated great vision and outstanding leadership in integrating the principles of sustainable development into research, education, student communities, and corporate practice. He has also been identified on Thinkers50 Radar as one of the up-and-coming thinkers whose ideas are predicted to make an important impact on management thinking in the future.

Putting ethics at the heart of global business

Read Matt's interview on the Hult Blog.

Watch Matt’s TedX Talk

Lab Areas of Focus

Leading Sustainability Transitions

How do we shift practices across whole industry sectors to achieve Net Zero by 2050 and other sustainability goals? What can we learn from emerging practices in sectors where such transitions are already well underway, such as power generation and electric vehicles, to help accelerate transitions in other sectors which are at earlier stages?

New research projects in this focus area will collaborate with initiatives at the heart of various sustainability transitions to understand and share the emerging learning about leading change across systems.

Previous Hult research projects in this focus area have looked at, for example, the practice of business advocacy for more ambitious government intervention and enhanced policy frameworks to accelerate sustainability transitions.


Strategizing for the Electrification Era: How the Ford Story is Unfolding

California Management Review

Alhaddi, H.



Deliberation Without Democracy in Multi-stakeholder Initiatives: A Pragmatic Way Forward

Journal of Business Ethics 181, 543–561

Barlow, R.



Here’s how to convince CEOs to support government climate action at the expense of their own profits

The Conversation

Gitsham, M., Gosling, J., Nayak, A.



Why climate change and other global problems are pushing some business leaders to embrace regulation

Harvard Business Review

Gitsham, M.


The Sustainability Challenge: implications for senior executive leadership roles and management education

How has engaging with sustainability and other ESG challenges been influencing the day job? How have CEOs and other senior executives been experiencing their role changing? How have they been needing to lead differently to the generation of business leaders who came before them? What experiences have shaped their thinking and practice? What are the implications for Talent Management, Leadership Development and Management Education? What does this tell us about how to build the leadership we need to achieve the UN SDGs?

New research projects in this focus area will explore how senior executives have been experiencing and making sense of how their roles have been changing, and how their leadership practices have been experienced by others. New projects will also explore the evolving relationship between Chief Learning and Development Officers and Chief Sustainability Officers in organizations, and innovation in leadership development for sustainability.

Previous Hult research projects in this focus area have involved partnerships with the UN Global Compact PRME, Business in the Community, and the International Business Leaders Forum.


The changing role of business leaders, and implications for talent management and executive education

Springer Netherlands

Gitsham, M.



Globally responsible leadership: Managing according to the UN Global Compact


Lawrence, J.T, Beamish, P.W,



Handbook of Sustainability in Management Education

Edward Elgar

Arevalo, J.A. & Mitchell, S.F.


Innovation and social entrepreneurship for the SDGs

This area of focus examines how we can stimulate the innovation required to achieve the UN SDGs. With our research, we look to answer questions like: How can organizations organize, plan, and execute complex innovation initiatives to achieve the UN SDGs? How do they work collaboratively across ecosystems to achieve such transformational innovation?

A current project in this area is examining how entrepreneurial, public, and private organizations across Europe, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East join forces to deliver innovative solutions that can create sustained societal value.

Social entrepreneurship plays an integral role in innovation. How can we maximize the role of social entrepreneurship? Who are social entrepreneurs? What do we know about their personalities and their motivations? How does this change over the lifetime of an entrepreneurial venture? What can this tell us about how to encourage more social entrepreneurship as a means of achieving the UN SDGs?

A current research project in this focus area is working in partnership with the Hult Prize to explore the experiences of participating social entrepreneurs and aims to highlight implications for educators, entrepreneurs, policymakers, and development institutions.

Luxury brands have particular opportunities and challenges in helping accelerate the achievement of the UN SDGs. One current project in this area examines consumer attitudes to sustainability claims made by luxury brands.


Let’s STRIDE Towards UN SDG-led Innovation

The European Business Review

Cooray, M., Duus, R., Carmichael, J., & Sylvestersen, M.



Do materialists care about sustainable luxury?

 Marketing Intelligence & Planning

Talukdar, N., Yu, S.


Business and Human Rights

How do we accelerate the transition toward embedding the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights into everyday business practice? What is the role of Human Rights Due Diligence? How do we develop effective mandatory Human Rights Due Diligence regulation? And how can such regulation influence organizational behavior and human rights outcomes?

New research projects in this focus area will explore the relationship between the design and implementation of human rights regulation and organizational behavior across the value chain.

Previous Hult research projects in this area, including partnerships with the Ethical Trading Initiative, have examined the nature of corporate leadership on Modern Slavery, and the influence of the introduction of the UK Modern Slavery Act.


Corporate leadership on Modern Slavery

Hult International Business School and Ethical Trading Initiative

Lake, Q., MacAlister, J., Berman, C., Gitsham, M., Page, N.


Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB)

Maximizing and capitalizing on workplace DEIB is a strategic issue for organizations today. The increasingly global economy requires more interaction among diverse cultures, and companies require global and diverse talent to stay competitive. Particularly, in the wake of recent events such as #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter, organizations are also being called to look inwards, focusing on how they can create equitable experiences for all, and respect and promote the human rights to equality and freedom from discrimination.

One current research project in this focus area is investigating rethinking masculinity in the new world of work, exploring the personal work men need to do to take action for gender equity in the workplace, and what practices enable such shifts in thinking and practice.


The noise of our workplaces is made out of silences

HR Magazine

Bayntun-Lees, D.



Women Leaders During a Global Crisis

Hult International Business School Research Report

Bayntun-Lees, D., Paine Schofield, C.


Another current project is examining the link between corporate culture and the company's willingness to appoint women to the board. We're investigating questions of whether different types of culture make it more or less likely for boards to appoint women, whether companies appoint female directors because they recognize their true value, or because there is stakeholder pressure, they need to fulfill minimum requirements, or they want to look good.

Collaborate with Hult Impact Labs

Want to find out more about any of our Impact Labs? Interested in collaborating on a project? Get in touch and let's talk research.

Meet the Team