The Aspen Institute Business & Society Program has today announced the winners of its 2021 Ideas Worth Teaching Awards, with a UNSW Business School course among the winners from the global pool.  

Sustainable and Responsible Investing is one of just eight winners that have won an Ideas Worth Teaching Award for representing ‘the new toolkit for business to be a collaborative, restorative force in society’s wellbeing’. Running since 1999, this year the nominations came from 90 schools from 19 countries with every continent - bar Antarctica - represented. 

The award-winning course was created by Associate Professor Kingsley Fong, School of Banking and Finance and AGSM Scholar, and is co-designed and co-taught with William Wu, Adjunct Lecturer and Sustainability Investment Specialist. The course incorporates environmental, social, and governance (ESG) considerations and methods into investment practices. 

According to Jaime Bettcher, Program Manager at the Aspen Institute Business & Society Program, who oversees the awards selection process, the content of the eight winning courses – which includes Sustainable and Responsible Investing - reflects the historic nature of this moment. 

“We believe we are experiencing a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reposition the fundamental relationship between business and society,” Bettcher says. 

“There is immense power in business practice – the collective and normalized decision-making across corporations and global markets – to affect health, economic and environmental inequities; to affect how governments function and how public goods are protected and sustained.”   

“We believe that the courses recognized among this year’s winners point the way for a world on stronger and more just foundations in the future.” 


See also: Sustainable investment is on the rise globally. Is Australia being left behind? 

See also: UNSW partners with UK government to transform ocean accounting 


What skillset does Sustainable and Responsible Investing provide for students and business? 

Fong says he was driven to create the course in order to fill the gap when it came to reflecting on the purpose of business and markets. He wanted to give students the skills to create a sustainable world on a practical level in the ESG space. 

“When the rubber hits the road, financial capital is needed to implement many sustainability ideas. The involvement of mainstream investors is necessary to make a prosperous and sustainable future a reality,” he says. “Usually, people think finance is just about making money, but that doesn’t mean we only consider financial variables.”  

“That's an aspect that I tried to fill - this connection, based on evidence and practice, between society and what finance professional and investors can do about the sustainability challenges.”   

Wu pointed out that it will be today’s students that will be playing a leading role in shaping the way we view financial markets. 

“It is important that they learn practical approaches on how to incorporate environmental, social and governance factors into business decisions and financial analysis. Businesses also need to re-examine their purpose and consider environmental and social considerations in terms of risks and opportunities.” 

Looking to the future of sustainable investment 

For Fong, Sustainable and Responsible Investing will continue to play a key role in building students’ understanding of the direction global investment markets are taking. 

“There is no government of the world, but large businesses are powerful entities operating across countries,” he says. “So, it's essential for the investors and the financial markets to be able to price in the risk and opportunities of issues like climate change”  

Another key consideration for Fong was the legacy of what he would leave behind for future generations – in particular, his family. 

"The lack of climate action was an issue that kept me awake at night,” he says. “One morning, I looked at my son (he was five years old). I said, ‘Now is the opportunity to do something about climate change!’”  

“I would like to imagine that 20 years later, if my children or grandchildren ask me, ‘What did I do about it?’ I can reply with a positive story.” 

You can find out more about award-winning FINS3644 Sustainable and Responsible Investing at the course outline. The corresponding post-graduate course is FINS5544 Socially Responsible Investing.  

To see the rest of the winners of the 2021 Aspen Institute Ideas Worth Teaching Award, click here


About the Aspen Institute 

The Aspen Institute is a global non-profit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world.  

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