The ESG Initiative at the Wharton School


Explore 10 ESG Courses at Wharton for Spring Semester 2024

Deepen your knowledge, expand your toolkit, and power your impact this spring. Explore ten of the many ESG-related courses available to Penn and Wharton students in the upcoming semester. These listings are subject to change. Please review MyWharton for additional courses, as well as up-to-date section information, class times, and registration info.

ACCT/BEPP 7640 Climate and Financial Markets

Climate change might be the defining challenge of our times, with a wide range of effects on financial markets and the broader economy. At the same time, financial markets play an important role in financing the transition to a net-zero economy. In this course, we examine how climate risks—both physical and regulatory—affect firms, financial markets (including carbon and renewable-energy certificate markets), and markets for energy and real estate. We examine the role that firms’ disclosures and third-party information sources play.

In addition to lectures, cases, and class discussions, this highly interactive course will include in-class experiments and simulations, visits by renewable energy investors, and a panel featuring investment, investor relations, and auditing experts.

Answer questions such as:

  • Do financial markets already price climate risks?
  • Do mortgage lenders adjust for flood risk and, if so, by how much?
  • Why do some oil and gas majors choose very different strategies than others?
  • Are executives rewarded for green behaviors?

Mutually Exclusive: BEPP 2640
1 Course Unit

Tuesday/Thursday 10:15-11:45 am and 1:45-3:15 pm
Prof. Arthur van Benthem and Prof. Mirko Heinle

BEPP/OIDD 2630 Environmental & Energy Economics and Policy

This course examines environmental and energy markets from an economist’s perspective, ranging from fossil fuels to renewable energy to carbon-trading systems, and explains how different regulations can provide efficient or counter-productive incentives for firms, consumers and politicians. Hear from a diverse slate of guest lecturers, from energy industry executives and CEO’s to entrepreneurs in the renewable energy space. Partake in two energy strategy simulation games: OPEC production and electricity bidding.

Answer questions such as:

  • Why do politicians and firms disagree on climate change policy?
  • Should we subsidize renewables or tax fossil fuels?
  • How well do we predict energy prices?
  • Why can power prices become sky high but also negative?

Prerequisites: An introductory microeconomics course (ECON1, or another course approved by the instructor) will be sufficient in most cases; BEPP 2500 or an equivalent intermediate microeconomics course is recommended.
1 Course Unit

Tuesday/Thursday 12:00-1:30 pm
Prof. Arthur van Benthem

LGST 1010 Law and Social Values

This course presents law as an evolving social institution, with special emphasis on the legal regulation of business in the context of social values. It considers basic concepts of law and legal process, in the U.S. and other legal systems, and introduces the fundamentals of rigorous legal analysis. An in-depth examination of contract law is included.

Mutually Exclusive: LGST 1018
1 Course Unit

Multiple class sessions and instructors, see MyWharton for more information

LGST 6130 Business, Social Responsibility, and the Environment

This half-credit (.5 cu) course presents students with the opportunity to explore an alternative perspective to what some might consider the traditional or standard model of business. A starting point of the course is to ask whether business firms owe a “social responsibility” that includes, but goes beyond, maximizing profits. The course begins with overarching questions including to whom a business firm owes legal and ethical duties, how to balance or trade-off obligations owed to different stakeholders when they may conflict, and how to consider the distributional and other socially important implications of business decisions. Different sections of this course will examine questions about the responsibility of business toward a number of pressing environmental and social issues, including for example, climate change, fresh water availability, green marketing claims, democratic values, racial and gender diversity, human rights, poverty reduction, and global health issues such as access to medicine. These topics will be treated primarily through the lenses of law and ethics. Please consult individual instructors’ syllabi in the Wharton syllabus repository for further details on what will be covered in each individual section, and please note that topics change over time and in response to student and faculty interests. Finally, students should expect to prepare and present in groups to colleagues in classes on selected issues of business responsibility. This course fulfills the MBA Flex Core requirement in Legal Studies and Business Ethics.

0.5 Course Units

Tuesday/Thursday 10:15-11:45 am and 1:45-3:15 pm
Prof. Eric W. Orts

MGMT 2090/7200 The Political and Social Environment of the Multinational Firm: Aligning Stakeholder Analytics, Valuation and Strategy

The financial significance of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) factors and stakeholder opinions of the acceptability of a firm’s operations (i.e., the social license to operate) is mounting, yet the data, frameworks, and tools informing investors, consultants, and corporates are unreliable. The course provides students with novel data, frameworks, and tools that can guide the alignment of stakeholder opinions on ESG factors, valuation and strategy.

Estimates of the capital expenditures necessary to achieve a net-zero emissions and the 1.5 degrees Celsius global warming target exceed $50 Trillion over the next 30 years. Estimates of the economic damage caused by racial injustice in the United States alone surpass $16 Trillion. While such costs may seem overwhelming, $35.3 Trillion (36% of total global assets under management) actively weigh ESG issues in 2020, up from $13.3 Trillion (21% of global AUM) in 2012. During this same period, the share of executives, board members, and investment managers who consider climate risk, racial justice and other ESG issues to be material to their business decisions has doubled. If a business case for ESG issues can be demonstrated, pools of capital are poised to make an impact. However, despite these pools of available capital and their own belief in the materiality of ESG, executives, board members, and investment managers are, at the same time, growing less confident in the ESG data available to guide capital allocations and strategic decisions. ESG scores across proprietary data providers have been demonstrated to be unreliable and often lean on outdated information around relevant ESG factors typically obtained through voluntary unaudited disclosure—others omit pertinent factors in their scoring altogether.

This course provides students the latest tools to assess and map stakeholder opinions as well as integrate them into financial valuation. It also offers behavioral skills critical for external stakeholder engagement including trust building and communications as well as for the engagement of stakeholders inside the firm. In short, it prepares students to engage in Corporate Diplomacy (i.e., to influence or assess external stakeholders’ opinions of the acceptability of a company’s operations at a moment in time and to convince internal stakeholders to adapt their behaviors, systems and outputs when necessary). The course is primarily taught using the case method along with a mix of guest speakers from industry.

1 Course Unit

MGMT 2090
Monday/Wednesday 10:15-11:45 am
Prof. Witold Henisz

MGMT 7200
Monday/Wednesday 1:45-3:15 pm
Prof. Witold Henisz

MGMT 2240/6240 Leading Diversity in Organizations

People in the workplace are constantly interacting with peers, managers, and customers with very different backgrounds and experiences. When harnessed effectively, these differences can be the catalyst for creative breakthroughs and the pathway to team and organizational learning and effectiveness; but when misunderstood, these differences can challenge employees’ values, performance, workplace relationships, and team effectiveness. This course is designed to help students navigate diverse organizational settings more effectively and improve their ability to work within and lead diverse teams and organizations. It also offers students the opportunity to develop their critical thinking on topics such as identity, relationships across difference, discrimination and bias, equality, and equity in organizations and society and how they relate to organizational issues of power, privilege, opportunity, inclusion,creativity and innovation and organizational effectiveness. Class sessions will be experiential and discussion-based. Readings, self-reflection, guest speakers from organizations, case studies and a final project will also be emphasized.

By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  1. Evaluate the aspects of your identity and personal experiences that shape how you interact and engage with others and how they interact and engage with you in organizations
  2. Explain how issues of power, privilege, discrimination, bias, equality, and equity influence opportunity and effectiveness in organizations
  3. Propose ways to make relationships across difference in organizations more effective
  4. Describe current perspectives on the relationships among diversity, inclusion, creativity, and innovation in organizations
  5. Analyze a company’s current approach to leading diversity and use content from this course to propose ways to enhance learning and effectiveness in that company.

0.5 Course Units

Monday/Wednesday 12-1:30 pm and 1:45-3:15 pm
Prof. Flannery Stevens

MGMT 2410 Leading for Impact: Tackling the Biggest Societal Challenges

Inequality. Poverty. Racism. Climate change. And so much more. The list of societal challenges in the United States and around the globe is daunting. Like many students, you may hope to make a positive difference in the world. But, where and how? This course is designed to help you begin to answer this question.

Every class, we will meet with for-profit and nonprofit leaders who are working to make a difference, drawing lessons from their successes, failures, evolution, and resilience. We will read and discuss rigorous social science research and topical news articles that ensure that we move from hunches to facts, from simplistic and ineffective solutions to systems knowledge. We will compare for-profit and non-profit approaches and investigate strategies to measure and monitor impact. And, we will take a deep dive into two critically important, complex, and fascinating societal challenges facing the US today: (1) barriers to college access and completion; and (2) barriers to employment following incarceration.

This highly interactive and thought-provoking course will help you develop the skills, knowledge, determination, and support system to lead with impact throughout your career.

1 Course Unit

Wednesdays 3:30-6:20 pm
Prof. Katherine Klein

MGMT 6250 Corporate Governance, Executive Compensation and the Board

This course examines the relationships between corporate managers, the boards of directors charged with overseeing them, and investors. We’ll review the responsibilities of the board, including financial statement approval, CEO performance assessment, executive compensation, and succession planning. While boards are legally bound to represent the interests of equity investors, in the course of carrying out this role they are often called on to respond to the needs of numerous other stakeholders, including customers, employees, government and society at large. With global brands at risk and mistakes instantly transmitted via Internet and social media, the reputational stakes are very high.

The course is a combination of lecture, guest lecture, discussion, case analysis, and in-class research workshops. We will review some of the theory underlying modern governance practice, drawing from theories and evidence provided by research across diverse fields, including finance, sociology, and organization and management theory. We’ll study specific situations where boards and management teams faced governance challenges, and assess the strategies used to deal with them. Finally, we’ll examine the ways in which governance arrangements and external stakeholder involvement in governance affects corporate social behaviorand global citizenship.

0.5 Course Units

Multiple class sessions, see MyWharton for more information
Prof. Mary-Hunter (Mae) McDonnell

MGMT 8170 Global Growth of Emerging Firms

Emerging firms are a critical element of economic growth, and a key source of gains in innovation and social welfare. This course is designed to depart from the U.S.-centric conversation on startups – with its outsized focus on Silicon Valley – and train a critical eye on some of the unique innovations emerging from new regional hotspots across the globe, with a particular focus on developing and emerging economies. We will discuss the challenges faced by founders in different global contexts, the components of a robust institutional ecosystem, and the ways in which creative solutions may flourish in response to local problems. Along the way, students will gain a virtual view into global startup communities, and personalized insights from firm founders operating around the world – from Bogota to Nairobi to Jakarta. The course will be structured in three primary parts. The first and longest section will discuss the Key Challenges for emerging firm growth across the globe, such as access to talent and resources, political risk, and legal institutions. The second section will highlight particularly active areas of Context-Driven Innovation that are thriving in various regions, such as financial technology, mobile health products, and clean energy. The final section will train Regional Spotlights on different geographic areas in turn, so that we may focus on the challenges and opportunities specific to various parts of the world. This course is relevant to both U.S. and non-U.S. students, and it is expected that students will bring their own backgrounds and experiences to contribute to lively class discussions. The course will culminate with a group project done in teams of four, in which groups will give short presentations to the class.

1 Course Unit

Tuesday/Thursday 1:45-3:15 pm
Prof. Natalie Carlson

MGMT 8970 Impact Hack: Advancing Entrepreneurial Solutions to Educational Inequities

This course is designed to provide an immersive social innovation experience for MBA and WEMBA students.

Working in teams, you will develop and pitch an innovative, entrepreneurial solution that addresses barriers to college access and completion. We will start with a deep-dive into the problem-space, learning from academic and practitioner experts about the causes, manifestations, and persistence of educational inequities. You will also hear from entrepreneurs and social activists who will tell you about the approaches they are taking to address the issue of college access and completion. Each day, your team will produce a mini-deliverable that engages with the class content and applies it to an emerging venture idea. The class will culminate in a pitch day where each team will present their idea and receive feedback from active social entrepreneurs and impact investors.

The class will be of value to students who are interested in creating socially impactful businesses and other organizations, as well as to those who want to work in the ecosystem that supports such ventures including consulting, impact investing, and philanthropy.

Mutually Exclusive: WH 2120
0.5 Course Units

MBA Opportunity Week, Monday-Friday, 9:00 am-12:30 pm
Prof. Katherine Klein and Prof. Tyler Wry

Co-Curricular Offerings

We offer a robust set of transformational student programs and resources to match your interests in ESG and business. Our semester and year-long experiential learning programs equip students with hands-on experience in consulting, portfolio construction, impact and ESG investing, and more. For students who wish for a less intensive time commitment, we offer additional opportunities to participate and learn.