New Offerings in ESG Literacy and Sustainability Reporting

LAST FALL, the Gabelli School of Business became the first in the country to offer a course specifically designed around helping undergraduate and graduate students pursue the top professional credential in environmental, social, and governance (ESG) reporting.

Thanks to a collaboration with the Value Reporting Foundation, the new course, titled Sustainability Reporting and SASB Standards, allows students to learn Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) principles through case studies, data sets, guest speakers, and other resources. At the end of the course, students are prepared to take the Fundamentals of Sustainability Accounting (FSA) Level 1 certification exam.

Sustainability accounting is how a company’s social and environmental impacts are measured, analyzed, and reported.

“Sustainability disclosures are the future of reporting information,” said Barbara Porco, PhD, clinical professor and associate dean of graduate studies at the Gabelli School, who is an instructor for the course. “We’re preparing students for the future.”

Students learn how sustainability issues can impact a company’s value and how to integrate data on ESG issues into reports, corporate strategy, and investment analysis.

“There is a huge demand for skill sets in the [ESG] area, and I believe our students are going to be uniquely qualified when they get to the marketplace because they have been so deeply engaged with these [SASB] standards,” said Timothy Hedley, PhD, an instructor and executive in residence at Fordham University.

The standards have their roots in the SASB, which was founded in 2011 by Jean Rogers, an engineer and former Loeb Fellow at Harvard University, as a way to help businesses and investors develop a common language about the financial impacts of sustainability. The organization merged with the International Integrated Reporting Council to create the Value Reporting Foundation in 2021, but its standards still remain. SASB standards aim to help businesses “identify, manage, and communicate financially material sustainability information to their investors.”

Porco said that sustainable reporting is essential to the future of business.

“This is the language of business, but it’s a new dialect,” she said. “And everybody’s got to learn how to speak it and understand it or you’re going to be behind.”

The students will have the opportunity to take the FSA Level 1 exam, although sitting for it is not required to pass the course. “That is a globally recognized certification—there are only 3,000 people in the world who have FSA Level 1 certification,” she said. “I would think that probably within the next five years, that’s going to go into the hundreds of thousands.”

This course is the latest addition to the Gabelli School’s academic offerings on sustainability, including a sustainability reporting track for accounting majors, a sustainability accounting minor, and embedded sustainability content throughout core courses. In February, the Gabelli School also launched three new programs in ESG literacy for professionals outside of Fordham: an ESG Bootcamp, as well as FSA Level 1 and Level 2 training. All offerings are eligible for Continuing Professional Education credits.

“It’s part of our mission. We not only educate our students holistically, but students need to understand organizations holistically, cura negotium,” she said, using a Latin phrase meaning to “care for the whole of business,” which is related to Fordham’s value of cura personalis, or “care for the whole person.”

“[This is knowledge they need] to be the future responsible business leaders.”