Gabelli School expands its sustainable accounting offerings
Last semester, Fordham’s Gabelli School of Business became the first in the nation to offer a course specifically designed to help undergraduate and graduate students earn top professional credentials in environmental, social and governance reporting. (ESG).
Through a collaboration with the Value Reporting Foundation, the new course titled Sustainability Reporting and SASB Standards enables students to learn the principles of the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) through case studies, datasets, guest speakers and other resources. Students will be prepared to take the Fundamentals of Sustainability Accounting (FSA) Level 1 certification exam at the end of the course.
Sustainability accounting is how a company’s social and environmental impacts are measured, analyzed and reported.
“Sustainability disclosures are the future of reporting,” said Barbara Porco, Ph.D., clinical professor and associate dean of graduate studies at the Gabelli School of Business, which teaches the course. “We prepare students for the future.
Porco said interest in sustainability reporting grew exponentially after Larry Fink, the founder, chairman and CEO of BlackRock, wrote in his annual letter to shareholders in 2018 that companies should state their purpose and how their work contributes to society.
The ability to generate value
The course highlights the connection between financial sustainability reporting and a company’s ability to create value.
SASB standards are considered to be at the forefront of sustainability reporting. Throughout the course, students learn how sustainability issues can impact a company’s value and how to incorporate data on environmental, social and governance issues into reporting, corporate strategy and investment analysis.
“There is a huge demand for skill sets in the [ESG] field, and I believe our students will be uniquely qualified when they come to market because they have been so deeply committed to these standards,” said Timothy Hedley, Ph.D., one of the course instructors and a senior executive. in residence at Fordham University.
“A new dialect”
The standards have their roots in the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board, which was founded in 2011 by Jean Rogers, an engineer and former Loeb Scholar at Harvard University, with the goal of helping companies and investors develop a common language on the financial impacts of sustainable development. The organization merged with the International Integrated Reporting Council to create the Value Reporting Foundation in the summer of 2021, but its standards remain. The SASB standards aim to help companies “identify, manage and communicate financially material sustainability information to their investors”.
Porco said sustainable reporting is essential for the future of businesses.
“I’m in a position where I can give students not only what they want, but also what they need,” she said. “It’s the language of business, but it’s a new dialect. And everyone has to learn to speak it and understand it, or you’ll be late.
The course — which was first offered last semester — includes five graduate students who help lead a class of 15 undergraduates, according to Porco. She said she intentionally reduced class sizes to make learning easier. Although the course is listed under accounting, Porco pointed out that it is not a traditional accounting course.
“The course is about sustainability disclosures and SASB standards – there are students in this course who are not accounting majors,” she said.
A prestigious certification
Students will also have the option of leaving with a globally recognized certification, although it is not necessary to pass the certification exam to pass the course.
“They will also be positioned to take the FSA Level 1 exam and Fordham will sponsor them to do so. This is a globally recognized certification – there are only 3,000 people in the world who have the FSA level 1 certification,” she said. “I think probably in the next five years it will be in the hundreds of thousands.”
She said she would like at least half of the enrolled students to pursue the additional certification.
This program is the latest addition to the Gabelli School’s impressive range of academic sustainability offerings, including a sustainability reporting track for accounting majors, a sustainability accounting minor, and integrated content on sustainability in the school’s core courses.
In addition to providing these skills to Fordham students, in February 2022 the Gabelli School launched three new open enrollment programs in ESG literacy for professionals outside of Fordham: an ESG Bootcamp, as well as an FSA Level training. 1 and Level 2. All offers are eligible for continuing professional development credits.
“It is part of our mission. Not only do we educate our students holistically, but students need to understand organizations holistically, cura negotium“, she said, using a Latin phrase meaning “to look after the whole business” which is linked to Fordham’s value of personalized curaor “caring for the whole person”.
“[This is knowledge they need] to be future responsible business leaders.