Dr Orla Lenihan

Assistant Professor in Governance, Sustainability and Finance; Programme Director MSc. Sustainability Leadership

J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics, University of Galway

Corporate Governance; Boards of Directors; Sustainability Leadership

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Dr Orla Lenihan

Orla holds a PhD in Corporate Governance (University College Dublin) and she is a Fellow of Chartered Accountants Ireland. Orla's research focuses on corporate boards of directors and executive incentives. Her current work examines board oversight of sustainability issues such as climate change.

Orla is the Academic Director of the MSc in Sustainability Leadership Programme. The programme aims to equip students with the leadership skills to address the challenges, risks, and opportunities that environmental sustainability and social responsibility present for contemporary businesses and organisations. The programme leverages the interdisciplinary research strengths and capacity developed over several years within the College of Business, Public Policy & Law, and the College of Science and Engineering.

Orla's work contributes to these SDGs

SDG 4,5,8,10,12,13

The MSc in Sustainability Leadership is a two year part-time course with flexible learning and is suitable for working professionals.

Key Target: 12.6 - Encourage companies to adopt sustainable practices and sustainability reporting

SDG 12


Awarded the University of Limerick Award for Excellence in Large Group Teaching

Nominated for Dean’s Award for Inclusive Teaching, University of Galway

Sustainable Finance and Accounting The objectives of the module are twofold: (1) to provide students with a knowledge of sustainability issues within an accounting, finance and governance context; and (2) to stimulate in students an interest in future research that responds to the global challenge of climate change and sustainability. Students will explore common approaches to measuring and reporting corporate sustainability performance. The module will consider how to integrate sustainability-related risks and opportunities into corporate financial decision-making and governance. Students will learn how to critique academic research in the field of sustainable accounting, finance and governance to identify gaps in current knowledge. The module will also introduce students to established research methods in accounting, finance and governance.

Supporting Targets SDG 5.5, 10.2, 12.6, 13.2

Financial Analysis, Governance and Sustainability This course explores the principles of financial accounting and the analysis and interpretation of financial data for decision making. The module also introduces students to the basic principles of corporate governance and the implications of governance failure. Consideration will also be given to the concepts of corporate sustainability and business ethics within a governance context. Students learn how to evaluate the key principles and provisions of relevant corporate governance codes. They learn how to distinguish between effective and weak corporate governance through real-world examples and value the roles of both ethics and sustainability within a governance context.

Supporting Targets SDG 5.5, 10.2, 12.6, 16.5


Invited Guest, Sustainability and Demystifying ESG Panel, University of Galway Regional Business Summit

Panel Chair, Business for Society: MBA 4 Good Panel, University of Galway MBA50 Conference

Invited Guest, Sustainability Matters Panel Discussion, AIB and Network Ireland Galway Branch

Direct impact SDG Targets

4.7 - Education for sustainable development and global citizenship

5.1 - End discrimination against women and girls

5.5 - Ensure full participation in leadership and decision-making

8.1 - Sustainable economic growth

10.3 - Ensure equal opportunities and end discrimination

12.6 - Encourage companies to adopt sustainable practices and sustainability reporting

13.2 - Integrate climate change measures into policies and planning

17.18 - Enhance availability of reliable data

Indirect Impact

5.C - Adopt and strengthen policies and enforceable legislation for gender equality

6.4 - Increase water-use efficiency and ensure freshwater supplies

7.3 - Double the improvement in energy efficiency

8.8 - Protect labour rights and promote safe working environments

12.5 - Substantially reduce waste generation

SDG wheel


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Photo by Daniel Zbroja on Unsplash

Photo by Daniel Zbroja on Unsplash

Featured Publications

Orla's research focuses on corporate boards of directors, executive incentives, and sustainability governance. She is interested in aspects such as board leadership, board effectiveness, board composition, board structure, board diversity, board expertise, executive incentives, climate governance, and sustainability leadership. Orla is especially interested in the role that boards play in overseeing corporate sustainability strategies, with current projects examining the extent of climate competence on boards and the use of climate metrics in executive pay. Her research draws on insights from both agency theory and stakeholder theory. Orla predominantly employs econometric models to analyse archival data.  

Best Paper Award, Accounting, Finance and Corporate Governance Track, Irish Academy of Management

Irish Accounting and Finance Association Scholar Award



Lenihan, O. and Brennan, N.M., 2023. Do boards effectively link firm objectives to CEO bonus performance measures?. Journal of Management and Governance. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10997-023-09690-9

SDG 12.6

Lenihan, O. and Brennan, N.M., 2023. Difficulty of Sustainability Performance Targets in CEO Bonus Plans. Accounting, Finance and Governance Review. https://doi.org/10.52399/001c.90764

SDG 12.6

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