The Wharton School announced the new Environmental, Social, and Governance Factors for Business concentration and major, which will be available for students to declare in the 2023-2024 school year.
The ESGB concentration, which will be offered at the undergraduate level, requires the completion of 4.0 credit units of coursework from a list of approved courses. Students can take on the concentration either with or without additional specializations, which are offered in Business, Energy, Environment, and Sustainability or in Social and Governance and require at least 3.0 CU of required courses in these areas of focus.
The ESGB major, which will be offered to Wharton MBA students, is designed for “individuals of all backgrounds with a vested interest" in Environmental, Social and Governance — a field focused on sustainable and socially responsible investing — who see it as the future of business, according to Vice Dean and Faculty Director of the ESG Initiative Witold Henisz.
“In order to be a business leader in this century, [one] needs to understand the essentials of how to run and finance a business — the operations, marketing, management, financing — but also to understand the social context in which [one’s] business operates,” professor of Legal Studies and Business Ethics Sarah Light said.
The exact team that started the development of the new concentration is “hard to isolate," according to Henisz, who highlighted Light’s involvement. He also indicated “lots of stakeholder support,” specifically referencing the Penn senior leadership team, alumni currently working in or pursuing ESGB-related professions, current students, the dean’s office, and the Curriculum Innovation and Review Committee.
When Wharton Dean Erika James was installed in 2020, she announced that one of her top priorities was to further develop ESG on campus. According to Light, this announcement prompted Wharton faculty to delve deeper into the social and governance dimensions of ESG, while also examining the study of business within an environmental framework in programs such as BEES, which is also an existing program on its own.
The creation of the ESGB major also served as a response to external markets, said Henisz. ESG investments saw records in 2021, with just under $650 billion making its way into ESG-focused funds globally.
Henisz described large employment opportunities in both budding industries such as green tech, health, and impact, and more traditional business sectors such as consulting, financial services, and analysis. The creation of the ESGB program contributes to the “Wharton ethos,” which produces “progressive business leaders,” Dr. Henisz said.
Wharton junior Michael Lentskevich, who is in the BEES program, said that he is “very excited” about the prospect of taking two concentrations hand-in-hand. Lentskevich said that he decided to pursue both BEES and ESGB to leverage a comprehensive knowledge about issues across all the fronts addressed in both majors.
Henisz added that he was not “an advocate or evangelist” for ESG, and that the introduction of this concentration is “about business and economics, rather than ideology.”
He added that it is undeniable that the risks ESG tackles — humanitarian crises, climate change, issues in political rights — are real, and that the major does not debate these things, but further explores them and prepares students to take them on in the workforce.