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Hello, this is Kasmira, and today it’s back to school for a rethink of how sustainable finance is taught.

While more business schools and higher education institutions are integrating environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues into their curricula, a lack of standardisation in a rapidly changing sector is just one of the challenges to doing so. We speak to some of the professors in Geneva who are shaking up the classroom.

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Kasmira Jefford


Teaching ESG - not as easy as ABC

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When Antoine Mach began teaching at the Geneva School of Business Administration (HEG) 10 years ago, sustainable finance was still perceived as a “fuzzy” concept in the corporate world – let alone in education and research.

For finance professors, Mach says, it was a “new transdisciplinary concept that did not really fit into existing theories and categories in finance”.

Today, as investors pour record amounts of money into environmental, and social governance (ESG) strategies, as regulators try to define common standards, and companies make even more pledges to play their part in fighting climate change, sustainability has been brought more sharply into focus.

Courses on offer to form the next cohort of finance professionals and managers have evolved and multiplied from mainly short, elective, or executive programmes to being taught at an undergraduate and master’s level. Research has also progressed from a subject that tended to be overlooked in the top academic journals.

Mach, who authored a study in 2014 on the state of sustainable finance education, tells Geneva Solutions: “At that time, sustainable finance was really an applied field with some theories but it was not really standardised. It was mostly practitioners who had the knowledge. This has changed and nowadays you see real academics, professors and researchers really devoting time and resources to the field.”

But even today, Mach – who co-launched a certificate of advanced studies (CAS) in sustainable finance at HEG four years ago – says more needs to be done to integrate ESG issues into educational programmes.

“Sustainable finance is still a relatively young topic. It's not really standardised and there are different approaches, rating methodologies and criteria that are being used,” he said.

Read more on Geneva Solutions

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