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The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania added majors last month relating to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), as well as environmental, social, and governance factors for business (ESGB).
Undergraduates at the elite business school can add concentrations in the programs to their bachelor of science in economics degrees, while MBA students can major in the subjects. Graduates will enter the job market with the new credentials beginning in the spring of 2025.
“We are proud and delighted that Wharton will be offering these new concentrations and majors, supported by the School’s world-class evidence-based curriculum,” Wharton Deputy Dean Nancy Rothbard said in a press release. “We look forward to seeing what our graduates accomplish.”
Both DEI and ESG have been the subject of intense criticism from investors, academics, and lawmakers. While the former set of theories tends to promote the mingling of racial or sexual identity with critical hiring and staffing decisions, the latter tends to cause the jumbling of progressive social agendas with the maximization of profits.
Wharton typically places first in national rankings of collegiate business programs. With alumni such as investor Warren Buffett, entrepreneur Elon Musk, and former President Donald Trump, the institution is the oldest postsecondary business school in the world.
Wharton also tapped Renita Miller to serve as the school’s inaugural chief diversity officer. “In her role at Wharton, Renita will report directly to me to align and amplify our existing and exploratory DEI practices to solidify a culture of dignity, respect, and transparency through the appreciation of differences,” Wharton Dean Erika James wrote of the former Princeton University diversity czar in an announcement last month. “Renita is well-versed in the data-informed practices necessary for success in this position, and will bring a spirit of leadership, empirical thinking and open perspective to the School.”
Students at Wharton already had the opportunity to take extensive coursework in socially conscious management through the business, energy, environment, and sustainability (BEES) concentration. Courses such as FNCE 2540, which teaches students about investment approaches that “generate social benefits as well as financial returns,” and LGST 2600, which encourages students to weigh the “intersection of climate change, environmental management, ethics, and leadership,” are among the classes required for the existing concentration.
“Students that are interested in social impact, entrepreneurship, innovation, risk management, and circular economy are excellent fits for this concentration. The role of sustainability has evolved in the past several years, sustainability is no longer a trend,” the concentration description argues. “It is now in the fabric of every organization, from its internal operations to its procurement policies, as well as strategic investments.”
Amid the most recent stock market downturn, however, ESG investments tended to suffer the most as investors overexposed their funds to the technology sector while avoiding fossil fuel investments. Though technology companies are known for bankrolling social initiatives in reaction to events like the death of George Floyd or the overturning of Roe v. Wade, they were also the first to lay off large portions of their staff as the stock market began its recent tailspin.
For instance, iShares’ ESG Aware MSCI ETF, which has its largest holdings in companies like Microsoft and Alphabet, is down nearly 26% since the beginning of 2022, slightly lower than the overall S&P 500 index. Meanwhile, iShares’ Global Energy ETF, dominated by oil and gas conglomerates like Exxon Mobil and Chevron, has risen nearly 35% over the same period.