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Rethinking value creation for sustainable business 

Cityscape at sunrise

By Professor Carol Adams 

Research by Carol Adams, Professor of Accounting in our Business School, has looked at the need to rethink value and the way companies generate wealth through economic activity. 

Her work emphasises how integrating sustainable development into corporate reporting can lead to greater overall value creation for the organisation, society and the environment. 

Corporate reporting, corporate governance and the way organisations approach strategy and value creation influence how money is allocated to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the risks and opportunities posed by sustainable development issues.  

New risks and opportunities 

Professor Adams’ research addresses two key problems, the results of which have impacted the business world, that:  

  • achievement of the SDGs requires a shift in how finance is invested; 
  • sustainable development issues give rise to new risks and opportunities for businesses. 

Her research shows that integrated reporting processes influence the way directors think, and their ability to handle increasing complexity. This change in reporting company results increases awareness of the impact of sustainable development issues, as well as a broader view of value creation.  

Her results also emphasise the benefits of integrated thinking and reporting, particularly in articulating how universities create value, including contributing to SDGs. 

Sustainable development 

Professor Adams has developed a five-step approach to encourage organisations to identify risks and opportunities arising from sustainable development issues, and to contribute to the SDGs whilst also creating value for the organisation and its stakeholders. 

Her research has impacted businesses, asset owners and policy makers, and has been shared through standard/framework-setting bodies and professional accounting bodies.  

This has led to: 

  • Changes in policy and regulatory body guidance, increasing emphasis on reporting on sustainable development issues and a broader view of value beyond profit and beyond enterprise value. 
  • Changes in reporting practice and strategy/approach which has informed investment decisions. 
  • Take-up by the UN Development Programme in its SDG Impact Standards. 

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