“More transition in their training”, this is what finance students interviewed by WWF France and For an ecological awakening are calling for in a study published on June 7. Conducted online with 500 students, all sectors combined, this survey reveals the “gap between the sensitivity of students to ecological transition (evaluated at 7/10 on average) and their perceived knowledge on the subject (evaluated at 5.9/10)”. Faced with this observation, 75% of them ask that the issues related to the transition be better taught in finance training.
“Today, the elements related to the ecological transition in finance focus mainly on ESG factors, the general presentation of sustainable finance and the management of ecological risk as a financial risk. The tools/data for sustainable finance, impact finance and the regulatory framework are significantly less studied, even if finance courses tend to integrate them more into their educational model than the average training course”, reveals the study.
Aware of the growing interest in the challenges of transition, and in particular sustainable finance, the business schools approached as part of the study, such as ESCP, HEC Paris, Toulouse Business Schools, say they are ready to improve their practices. 75% of the courses surveyed plan to overhaul their course offer by 2023-2024. In the meantime, several obstacles need to be lifted, according to them.
Brakes to lift
“In accounting and finance, one of the difficulties is that the standards are not yet established, they are emerging, and the pace at which things evolve and progress is very fast. The regulations and questions change very quickly and knowledge is not stabilized. This also makes traditional pedagogies (a teacher who disseminates his knowledge to students) not very effective. Such topics require more active pedagogieswhere students are mobilized to produce and develop knowledge”, testifies Hélène Löning, professor of finance and head of the master’s “Accounting Finance Management” at HEC Paris.
Some schools also complain that “business school accreditation systems and rankings do not include criteria for the inclusion of sustainability in the courses”.
When the rankings take into account the issues of ecological transition, it is generally to highlight the fact that schools organize events around sustainable development. It’s not enough,” says Agathe Duplessy, member of the collective For an ecological awakening.
Another dead point: the training of the faculty. “Teachers are still struggling to change what they teach, or at least to emphasize more on the problems of ecological transition”, notes the young woman. The study underlines the need to allocate additional resources, in particular by freeing up time. “External speakers, coming for example from companies, could also train teachers on the subjects of sustainable finance which are in perpetual evolution”, points out Agathe Duplessy.
Towards an evolution of programs
To overcome these various difficulties, the report of WWF France and For an ecological awakening delivers several solutions, in particular intended for higher education institutions. “They must set up a common core training from the license for all students. Some schools, for example, hold seminars with frescoes of the climate,” says Agathe Duplessy. A recommendation that is in line with Jean Jouzel’s 2022 report, entitled “Raise awareness and train in the challenges of ecological transition and sustainable development in theHigher Education”. This called for “integrating the ecological transition into existing teaching, with the objective of training 100% of students at Bac+2 level, whatever their course, within five years.”
In masters, training must also tend towards a transversal integration of sustainable finance in finance courses. This is particularly the case at HEC Paris, as evidenced by Hélène Langlade, 23, who has just graduated from the Grande Ecole at HEC, majoring in Accounting and Financial Management.
I think that HEC is making an effort to develop the programs and integrate the ecological transition into them. We also discuss the subject in a more transversal way in different courses, for example environmental reporting in accounting, green financial instruments (ex green bonds) in corporate finance, or changes in corporate strategy (carbon neutrality, SDGs, etc.).”
If the former student is rather satisfied with her training, she regrets however that most of the information on the theme of ecology is provided by professionals in business. “Although their perspective as a practitioner is enriching and relevant for our future career, I think that independent researchers or experts can bring a critical point of view and perspective on sustainability issues, she believes before adding: The ecological transition is often approached by companies with the perspective of reconciling ecology and growth, where other actors offer more radical alternatives such as decay or a model change. It would be interesting to be able to listen to all points of view in a more balanced way.”
Find all of Investir Durable #13, the sustainable finance magazine.
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