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28 courses to boost your ESG, sustainable finance skills

Whether you want to learn how to make more sustainable investment choices or improve your company’s ESG performance, these 28 courses can help.

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Source: Shutterstock/Khakimullin Aleksandr

Editor’s note: This is part of a series on closing the sustainability skills gap with the resources available right now. The collection includes over a dozen articles and more than 200 training opportunities in areas such as corporate sustainability strategy, climate and net-zero strategy, procurement and supply chain, circular economy, professional certifications and free upskilling.

Much like the word "sustainability," the terms "environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing," "impact investing" and "sustainable finance" mean different things to different people. If you’re looking for training at the intersection of finance and sustainability, it’s important to understand the differences among these terms to ensure that you’re taking the right course. Here’s a quick guide: 

  • ESG: A framework used by investors to attain non-financial information about a company’s operations and policies in environmental, social, and governance areas. It’s often conflated with terms such as "corporate social responsibility" or "corporate sustainability," which are broader. 
  • ESG investing: Incorporating a company’s ESG performance into the investment decision-making process. Think of it as investors simply increasing the scope of information they collect about a potential investment in order to arrive at a more precise determination of the investment’s potential risks, value and fit with portfolio objectives. 
  • Impact investing: Proactively seeking investments that can make a measurable social or environmental impact alongside financial returns, targeting a range of returns from below-market to market rate. This can take a lot of different forms such as investing in microfinance institutions, clean energy startups or social enterprises. 
  • Sustainable finance: Incorporating environmental and/or social considerations into the investment or lending decision-making process. This is a high-level term that encompasses roles within banking, ESG investing and impact investing as well as many kinds of financial instruments. 
  • Green finance: A subset of sustainable finance that refers to making investments that support environmental goals such as reducing carbon emissions, increasing biodiversity or reducing waste. 
  • Climate finance: A subset of green finance that refers to making investments in areas that support climate change mitigation or adaptation such as renewable energy, energy efficiency, climate resilience and carbon offsets or removal.   

The offerings below are divided into courses that can help you understand and improve your organization's ESG performance and courses that can help you incorporate ESG, impact or sustainability considerations into your investment decision-making process. This is not a perfect division, and there is a lot of overlap between the two categories. Several course descriptions also use the above terms interchangeably, so be sure to read the fine print for each course.  

These courses run the gamut from introductory level to professional deep-dive. If you’re new to finance or sustainability, keep in mind that these are highly complex and competitive disciplines. Consider any course you take to be a starting place; you’ll likely need additional education and experience in the financial instruments or impact areas you want to focus on to be a competitive candidate for roles in this space. 

If all these training opportunities have gotten you excited to learn more, be sure to subscribe to the GreenFin Weekly newsletter and save the date for GreenBiz's GreenFin event June 17-19 in New York City to form valuable connections with finance, investment and sustainability experts, get up to speed on the latest ESG trends in finance and investing and discover essential products and services to accelerate your climate strategy.

As is often the case with these types of lists, I’m sure I've missed some. If your favorite offering isn’t included here, I warmly invite you to join the conversation on LinkedIn to tell me and your fellow readers about it. Thanks in advance for your help with bringing these resources out into the open so that more people can get to work on advancing sustainable business practices. 

Courses for learning how to improve your organization’s ESG performance

These courses help professionals within an organization to understand how their company’s ESG performance is being evaluated by investors and other stakeholders and how they can drive improvement. Key topics for these courses usually include ESG-related risks and opportunities, global ESG regulations, reporting standards, ratings and rankings organizations, and stakeholder communication. Some courses also cover how organizations can incorporate ESG and impact considerations into investment decisions and reporting. 

Taking Financial Action for the SDGs: Implementing the CFO Principles from the UN Global Compact Academy and the CFO Coalition for the SDGs

This course is designed for CFOs and sustainability practitioners who engage with them and covers the four principles that CFOs can implement to build long-term sustainable value through strategic and financial integration of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Look for new content on sustainable finance from the UN Global Compact Academy coming in the third quarter of 2024.

  • Cost: Free
  • Time to complete: 30 minutes
  • Training format: On-demand e-learning
  • Key topics covered: How CFOs can help companies transition to sustainable development and fill the SDG financing gap; how SDG strategies can help deliver better financial results and develop stronger relationship with lenders and investors; how CFOs can help promote and finance innovative private sector solutions for the SDGs
Introduction to Sustainable Finance from the One UN Climate Change Learning Partnership

The course is designed for a wide audience — including companies interested in understanding how investors analyze and take account of sustainability issues, finance professionals interested in understanding how their activities might support the goals of sustainable development, policymakers, and civil society organizations interested in working with the finance sector.

  • Cost: Free
  • Time to complete: 7.5 to 10 hours
  • Training format: On-demand e-learning
  • Key topics covered: Sustainable finance instruments such as green, social and, sustainability-linked bonds and loans; integrating sustainability into financial decisions; global sustainable finance regulations and initiatives such as the Principles for Responsible Banking, the Principles for Responsible Investment and the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosure
Fundamentals of Sustainable and Impact Investment from the US Sustainable Investment Forum

The US Sustainable Investment Forum (US SIF) has offered a course on the fundamentals of ESG and impact investing for over a decade. The self-paced, on-demand version of the course is being updated to reflect recent regulatory updates and will become available again mid-2024. In the meantime, the US SIF Forum 2024 will host a live version of the course in Chicago on June 25.                      

  • Cost: $250
  • Time to complete: 4 hours
  • Training format: On-demand e-learning
  • Key topics covered: Overview of sustainable investing; approaches to ESG, portfolio construction and shareowner advocacy; performance studies, fiduciary standards and global trends; communicating your sustainable investment expertise with clients
ESG Certificate Program from the Corporate Finance Institute 

This self-paced professional training and certification program delivers a blend of ESG skills that are relevant to both corporate sustainability and finance professionals. The curriculum includes 13 courses covering finance, reporting, investing and business strategy and labs that provide practice with conducting a materiality assessment, developing ESG policies and developing an ESG governance structure.  

  • Cost: $299
  • Time to complete: 30 to 35 hours
  • Training format: On-demand e-learning, labs, exams
  • Key topics covered: ESG fundamentals; ESG disclosure; ESG integration & financial analysis; greenhouse gas accounting; human capital management; professional ethics; corporate governance; carbon market fundamentals; climate risk management
Certificate on ESG Impact and Sustainable Investing from the Sustainability Academy 

This certification course provides an introduction to ESG issues, indicators, standards and ratings. It also covers the relationship between sustainability reporting and investors, materiality and communicating value creation to financial stakeholders. The Sustainability Academy also offers ESG for CFOs, IRs and Fund Managers, which covers ESG investing principles. 

  • Cost: $560
  • Time to complete: 20 to 25 hours
  • Training format: On-demand videos, final quiz
  • Key topics covered: How ESG is used by investors; ESG standards and ratings including SASB, PRI, CDP, DJSI, FTSE, GMI, CSRHub, Bloomberg, MSCI, Sustainalytics and CSA; legislation including SFDR, NFR Directive, EU taxonomy; responsible investment and communication
ESG and Sustainable Financial Strategy from Oxford University’s Saïd Business School in partnership with the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants

This course is designed for executives and leaders in the finance and accounting functions and teaches why and how to incorporate ESG and sustainability into your strategic and financial planning. Learners are guided through developing a personalized Sustainability Transformation Plan for their organization.  

  • Next start date: June 19
  • Cost: $2,367
  • Time to complete: 7 weeks
  • Training format: On-demand videos, project, optional live online group sessions
  • Key topics covered: Drivers and fundamentals of sustainability; strategic planning and long-term value creation; risk management and finance; regulation and reporting; governance and stakeholder engagement; transformational change

Courses for learning how to incorporate ESG and impact into investment decisions 

These courses teach financial professionals how to incorporate ESG or impact considerations into the investment decision-making process. Common topics in these courses include ESG analysis, ESG and climate-related risks, portfolio construction and management, scenario analysis and creating, measuring and reporting impact. 

ESG Analyst Certification from Voiz Academy

This certification is one of several job-specific training offerings available on Voiz Academy’s unlimited sustainability upskilling platform. The ESG Analyst certification provides e-learning and hands-on assignments that teach learners how to analyze and rate ESG funds for their sustainability, including climate and other thematic impact funds.

  • Cost: $350 for an annual subscription
  • Time to complete: 36 to 48 hours
  • Training format: On-demand e-learning, assignments
  • Key topics covered: The ESG landscape including index-tracking funds, thematic funds and impact funds across equities, credit and project finance; risk management; evaluating broad ESG funds, thematic funds and asset managers; the future of ESG
Certificate in Green and Sustainable Finance from the Chartered Banker Institute

This course covers climate change, climate, environmental and sustainability risks, the evolution of green and sustainable products and services in the banking, investment and insurance sectors, and the role of the finance sector in supporting the transition to a low-carbon world.

  • Cost: $780
  • Time to complete: 12 weeks
  • Training format: On-demand e-learning, exam
  • Key topics covered: Climate change; building a sustainable financial system; measuring and reporting impacts; risk management; responsible retail, commercial and corporate banking; green and sustainable bonds; central and development banks; responsible and sustainable investment; insurance-impact underwriting; green and sustainable fintech; the future of green and sustainable finance
Certificate in ESG Investing from the Chartered Financial Analyst Institute 

This professional training and certification program is administered by the CFA Institute and has received recognition from the UN Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI). The CFA Institute also administers the CFA Charterholder credential, a rigorous industry-leading certification for investment professionals that demonstrates a strong understanding of advanced investment analysis and real-world portfolio management skills.

  • Cost: $865
  • Time to complete: 100+ hours across 6 months
  • Training format: On-demand e-learning, exam
  • Key topics covered: Environmental and social factors including material impacts and analysis at the country, sector and company levels; governance factors and models; how ESG factors may affect industry and company performance and security valuation across a range of asset classes; ESG integrated portfolio construction and management; investment mandates, portfolio analytics and client reporting
Applied Responsible Investment from PRI Academy

The Principles for Responsible Investment were developed by the United Nations in partnership with institutional investors from around the world. Applied RI is PRI Academy’s flagship training program for incorporating ESG factors into investment decision-making. PRI Academy offers several other courses including Understanding ESG, Advanced RI Analysis, RI for Trustees, RI in Practice and ESG in Alternative Investments

  • Cost: $940
  • Time to complete: 15 hours
  • Training format: On-demand e-learning, exam
  • Key topics covered: Material ESG issues; approaches for ESG analysis at global, regional, industry and company levels; corporate governance processes; designing an engagement policy; companywide responsible investment strategy; integrating ESG data in financial modeling and assessing ESG performance
The Climate Risk, Valuation, and Investing Certificate from the Chartered Financial Analyst Institute 

This cohort-based experience builds on the foundational knowledge covered in the Certificate in ESG Investing to teach participants how to integrate climate-related risks and opportunities into the valuation and portfolio construction processes. The course also covers sectors such as renewable energy, green infrastructure and green financial instruments and provides guidance for simplifying complex climate concepts for effective communication with stakeholders and clients. An on-demand version of the course will become available in August.

  • Next start date: May 27
  • Cost: $1,590
  • Time to complete: 100 hours across 24 weeks
  • Training format: On-demand videos, assignments, final exam, live online events
  • Key topics covered: Climate science, risks and regulations; transition finance and planning; climate and valuation, including stress testing and climate scenarios for equity and fixed income; strengths and limitation of climate valuation for private equity, private debt, infrastructure and real estate; portfolio management for climate risk
EFFAS Certified ESG Analyst from EFFAS Academy

The EFFAS Certified ESG Analyst is a professional credential issued by the European Federation of Financial Analyst Societies (EFFAS). The program is focused on the integration of ESG into investment analysis and places special emphasis on how ESG considerations affect asset classes and the due diligence process and on developing a nuanced understanding of data quality, reporting and regulation. EFFAS Academy also offers EFFAS ESG Essentials, which provides a shorter introduction of these concepts to a wider audience. 

  • Next start date: Registration is on a rolling basis for exams in June, September and December
  • Cost: $1,610
  • Time to complete: 6 months
  • Training format: On-demand e-learning, exam
  • Key topics covered: The regulatory environment; ESG strategies; responsible investing across asset classes; ESG reporting; ESG integration in the investment process and fundamental research; regional developments in APAC, LATAM, NA 
Sustainable Investing from Harvard Business School Online

This course enables investment professionals to evaluate ESG factors and measure and manage impact investments. This is one of several sustainable finance offerings from Harvard, which include Fundamentals of Sustainable Investing, Introduction to Sustainable Finance and Investments and Making the Sustainable Investment Business Case from the Harvard Extension School.  

  • Next start date: May 15
  • Cost: $1,750
  • Time to complete: 6 weeks, 5 hours per week
  • Training format: On-demand e-learning, assignments
  • Key topics covered: Overview of sustainable investing; public equities; venture, private equity, and sustainable debt; measuring, managing and accounting for impact; integrating climate risk and financing climate solutions; long-run theories of change
Impact Investing from Columbia Business School

This course is designed for investors, financial advisers and money managers who want to justify, advance or provide guidance on impact investing and measurement. The experience includes hands-on activities such as evaluating a portfolio’s level of risk, applying impact management principles to investments, and identifying a portfolio in alignment with your investment strategy. Columbia Business School also offers a course on ESG Investing, which begins Aug. 1.

  • Next start date: July 31, 2024
  • Cost: $2,600
  • Time to complete: 6 weeks, 4 to 6 hours per week
  • Training format: Live online sessions, on-demand videos, exercises, capstone project
  • Key topics covered: Introduction to impact investing; measuring impact; fixed income, public equity and private equity impact investing; innovative finance for impact investing including microfinance, social impact bonds and green bonds
Sustainable Finance and Investment from Yale School of Management

This program enables business leaders to drive the shift toward sustainable finance within their organizations and report accurately on sustainable investment returns. It caters to individuals making investment decisions in diverse industries such as asset management, investment and banking and provides consultants, executives and sustainability professionals with insights into the ESG data and metrics that shape sustainable investments. 

  • Next start date: July 24
  • Cost: $2,800
  • Time to complete: 6 weeks, 5 to 8 hours per week
  • Training format: On-demand videos
  • Key topics covered: Sustainable investing strategies; key organizations and tools in sustainable finance; ESG data, metrics, and analytics; asset pricing and portfolio management; impact metrics and investing; diversity of ESG investment products
Sustainable Finance from the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership

This course is suitable for both financial and non-finance professionals seeking to gain practical knowledge on how sustainable finance can drive long-term business returns. It explores the current financial system including pressures, trends and opportunities and provides practical guidance on impact investing, integrating ESG investing and positive screening.

  • Next start date: July 24
  • Cost: $2,913
  • Time to complete: 8 weeks, 8 to 10 hours per week
  • Training format: On-demand videos, exercises
  • Key topics covered: Steering capital for a sustainable future; strategies for sustainable finance; rewiring risk and return; sustainable finance solutions; the role of the public sector; disruption, innovation and sustainable finance; creating impact
Angel Investing in Climate Tech from

This six-week program, conducted by Climate Angels in partnership with Climate Capital, covers the entire angel investing toolkit and delivers actionable insights backed by real-world case studies, guest sessions with veteran climate investors, and hands-on exercises to rapidly get participants making angel investments in impactful, high-potential climate tech startups. 

  • Next start date: Fall
  • Cost: $3,000
  • Time to complete: 6 weeks, 5 to 10 hours per week
  • Training format: Live online sessions, on-demand videos, exercises
  • Key topics covered: Crafting financially robust and climate-effective investment theses; sourcing high-potential startups across diverse climate sectors and geographies; executing successful angel investment deals and syndicates; adding value to your investments as an angel

Join the conversation 

I hope this article has helped you find at least one great new resource to help you incorporate ESG or impact considerations into your investment or management practices. Remember, if I’ve missed one of your favorites or if you want to tell me about a resource that could be relevant to a future article, please join the conversation on LinkedIn. Until next time!

Trish Kenlon is the founder of Sustainable Career Pathways, a popular career coaching service that provides free, actionable resources to job seekers and has helped thousands of professionals transition into climate and sustainability work.

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