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University of Pennsylvania

ESG and Social Activism

University of Pennsylvania via Coursera


In this course, you will get an overview of the impact of contemporary ESG ratings and how a company balances ESG issues against its financial performance. You will evaluate the effectiveness of corporate authenticity and the impacts of politics when building corporate ESG policy. You will also learn about social activism’s ability to disrupt markets, and the roles that stakeholders play when dealing with financial markets.

Next, you will learn about corporate Boards, and the importance of creating independent Directors that can maintain neutrality to protect the interests of both the business and shareholders. You will also learn how Board structure is managed, methods for selecting Board members, and the role that Boards play when crafting ESG policy.

Lastly, you will look at the necessity of creating a diverse and inclusive culture within an organization and will examine best practices for boards to create strong crisis and risk management policies.

By the end of this course, you will have a comprehensive understanding of how social activism affects the corporate world in the 21st century, how to build a Board of Directors that can incorporate ESG issues into risk management and governance strategies, and how encouraging diverse and inclusive culture benefits companies.


  • Module 1 – Social Performance
    • In this module, you will learn about the role that social performance plays in how a corporation views itself and how it performs in the market. You will get an overview of the impact of contemporary ESG ratings and how companies balance ESG issues against its financial performance. You will examine the importance of authenticity, and how a company can face backlash if social performance is viewed as solely driven by profit. Lastly, you will discover the impact of regulation and how corporations use political influence in positive and negative ways. By the end of this module, you will have a firm understanding of the nuance within social performance, how companies respond to stakeholder concerns, and how political corruption is managed.
  • Module 2 – Social Activism and Non-Market Risk
    • In this module, you will learn about contention within social activism and the role that it plays in driving corporate social reform. You will also learn about the downsides to social movements, and how they can become market disruptors if they create negative media attention for a business. Next, you will examine examples of the harmful effects of activism, and how they can have the opposite influence on a business than what was intended based on the ideological alignment of stakeholders. Lastly, you will consider corporate activism, how CEOs can take on the role of activist, and the ways that they can influence ESG policies by partnering with NGOs. By the end of this module, you will know how to identify risks within social activism in your business, and how to best ally with NGOs as part of an authentic ESG strategy.
  • Module 3 – Good Governance: Board Composition to Maximize Long-term Value
    • In this module, you will learn about corporate governance and how that affects risk management and strategy. Next, you will learn how a corporation selects Directors how independence requirements are put into place to protect the interest of shareholders. You will also review best practices to strengthen the independence of the Directors and assess how to increase diversity to gain a more balanced Board of Directors. Lastly, you will discover ways to cultivate an inclusive corporate culture in ways that can improve market performance. By the end of this module, you will be familiar with governance mechanisms and how they work in large and small companies, understand how to select an independent Board of Directors, and finally, identify ways to promote diversity and inclusivity in corporate culture.
  • Module 4 – Good Governance: Structures and Practices for Prioritizing ESG Performance
    • In this module, you will learn about the different structures and importance of Boards and review their functions within a business. You will then learn about the succession process within a board and how that can affect shareholders during those periods. Next, you will discover the process for removing a CEO from an organization, the reasons why that would need to occur, and how stakeholders can sometimes prompt that removal. Lastly, you will review executive compensation models, the methods of corporate control that allow a Board to make decisions that determine an organization’s future, and the instrumental role of risk management. By the end of this module, you will have a thorough understanding of Board structure, how to create and implement a succession plan for a new CEO, and how a Board exercises its control over a business.

Taught by

Mary-Hunter McDonnell


4.8 rating at Coursera based on 108 ratings

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