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The Wharton School recently launched the Environmental, Social, and Governance Initiative.

Credit: Diego Cárdenas

The Wharton School recently announced the launch of the Environmental, Social and Governance Initiative, which aims to explore how business intersects the three ESG aspects through research, education, and policy practices.

ESG refers to the environmental, social, and governance factors that are relevant for business decisions and financial calculations. The program will focus on introducing new classes and programming. The initiative brings together four existing divisions at Wharton: the Climate Center, formerly known as the Wharton Risk Management and Decision Processes Center; the Impact Investing Research Lab, formerly known as the Wharton Social Impact Initiative; the Political Risk and Identity Lab; and the Zicklin Center for Governance & Business Ethics

The ESG Initiative is led by Management professor Witold Henisz, who will serve as the vice dean and faculty director of the program. Henisz told The Daily Pennsylvanian that the mission behind the ESG Initiative is consistent with the founding ideals of Joseph Wharton when he founded the business school in 1881, which is to “harness the power of business to solve the social problems incident to our civilization.”

The ESG Initiative will be introducing several new for-credit courses for students in the upcoming fall semester, such as "Sustainability Strategy," "ESG Investing," and "Water Risk and Opportunity," Henisz told the DP. New courses will be introduced at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, which will be available to students from all schools. The ESG Initiative also launched a non-credit ESG specialization on Coursera and is in the midst of developing non-credit programs with Wharton Executive Education for executives and industry leaders.

“We want to demonstrate that business can be a force for positive change on issues like climate and human rights — that requires the data, the business case, training and mobilization, and more that we aim to bring together through this initiative,” Henisz told the DP.

The ESG Initiative will also introduce eight different types of co-curricular opportunities including ESG consulting projects, fellowship programs, mentorship, and career services. Application details for these programs will be listed on the ESG Initiative website in August. 

Beyond creating new opportunities for students who wish to explore ESG, the ESG Initiative brings together academic research and industry partnerships to produce research that uncovers the importance of addressing ESG issues for business.

“Our goal is to publish flagship research that takes interesting questions around ESG and makes progress in a way that it can be published academically and implemented practically in a short time,” Henisz said to the DP. “Our early-stage research with some current partners has already shown to be effective and relevant to the extent that they are already able to implement it in their models.”