Sustainable Capitalismand ESG Online

Investors, regulators, employees, and the public are increasingly asking companies to address social and environmental issues. Yet, precisely how to do so remains unclear.

Our course addresses that challenge. Through a combination of focused lectures and case studies, curated readings, and in-depth interviews with over 50 thought leaders, we demonstrate how to incorporate environmental, social, and governance considerations into business and investment strategy.


Course Design

Each module begins with a lecture including theoretical underpinnings for each topic and case studies of leading company practices.

See The Course Roadmap below for an overview of each module.

Through The ESG Beat, our interview series, we will introduce the thought leaders on the forefront of defining and implementing ESG. This will provide concrete insights into how ESG and sustainable capitalism are being debated and operationalized, and enable students to keep their finger on the pulse of this movement.

Our experts include investors, board members, corporate executives, corporate counsel and general counsel, former judges, the media, academics, and leading NGOs and nonprofits.

See The Course Roadmap below for more about the experts you will learn from.


With new articles being published each day, it is difficult to navigate the vast literature on Sustainable Capitalism and ESG. In this course, we have curated some of the most important resources, which include:

  • Ground-breaking academic papers (which we have excerpted)
  • Opinion pieces and articles written by our guests on The ESG Beat and other experts
  • Industry reports containing data on ESG trends and highlighting ESG risks and opportunities
  • Media articles that show how ESG issues are being discussed and debated in the court of public opinion

Designed for busy professionals, many of the readings are optional, but will provide students with the opportunity to delve deeper into the topic if they choose.

To provide participants with the opportunity to engage in the discussion and debate, we will assign written reflections and responses throughout the course.

The reflections should take roughly 30 minutes. Responses should take roughly 20 minutes.

To earn the certificate, participants are required to complete two written reflections and two written responses. They are optional for participants who don’t seek to earn the certificate. 



We will host four optional, live office hours with Professor Miazad, providing participants with the opportunity to ask questions and bring up topics for discussion.

These live office hours are typically held on Thursdays at 9:00 am PT (exact dates to be shared with the cohort).

In addition, we will host four networking sessions (two of which will focus on “Careers in ESG”).

 Our sessions will also provide a platform to discuss and debate the headline-grabbing topics of the day!

Testimonials from current course participants: 

  • “This course is a masterful top-to-bottom review of ESG, ranging from the underlying theory and history to the latest in reporting frameworks and board governance.  Given its breadth, it provides a solid introduction for newcomers, but also offers enough depth for ESG experts.”  Nicole Diaz, Global Head of Integrity & Compliance Legal, Snap Inc.
  • “This course offers an accelerated way to learn about the most important business trends of our lifetime.  ESG will be central to our future, and this course is a great way to learn about key concepts from some of the most influential thought leaders in the space.” Lex Suvanto, Global Managing Director, Financial Communications & Capital Markets, Edelman


See The Course Roadmap below for a detailed overview of each module. More experts will be added for our March 2022 course!

Course Details

  • When & Where:  The next course will launch on August 15, 2022. While we will provide a 12-week recommended schedule, participants will have access to the course materials for five months and will have until the end of that period to complete the content. For those seeking the certificate, the course offers roughly 40 hours of mandatory content.
  • Who Should Participate:  This course approaches ESG from a cross-functional perspective and explores both legal and business risks and opportunities. Past participants include C-suite executives and other professionals from different disciplines including law, investor relations (IR), public affairs and policy, media, and communications.
  • Certificate Requirements: Participants who complete all ten modules, two written reflections, and two written responses will earn a Certificate in Sustainable Capitalism and ESG from Berkeley Law Executive Education.
  • MCLE Credit: This program has been authorized by the California State Bar to offer up to 19.75 credit hours of MCLE. Attorneys from other states will need to contact their local bar to verify their own certification requirements.
  • Tuition (per person): 
    • $1,500 general tuition
    • $1,275 for UC Berkeley Alumni*
    • $1,275 partner organization members*
    • $1,275 group rate*
    • $375 for auditors* (This rate is only available to past program participants who earned a Sustainable Capitalism & ESG Online certificate and want to stay up to date on ESG. Includes access to course materials and live discussion forums only.)
    • *For all special rates (i.e. UC Berkeley alumni, partner, group, or auditor), please email for instructions to access your tuition category.
  • Sallie Mae Financing: If you are interested in financing this course, Sallie Mae provides competitive education loan programs for credit-qualified borrowers. For more information and to apply, visit the Sallie Mae website. If you decide to pursue such financing, please submit your application to Sallie first and then contact us at We will provide additional instructions on completing your registration.
  • Professional Development Sponsorship: If your employer provides professional development opportunities and funding, we highly recommend asking them to subsidize the cost of tuition for Sustainable Capitalism & ESG Online. This certificate program is an excellent professional development and networking opportunity, and your employer may be willing to cover some, or all, of the costs. You are welcome to customize this template for your purposes.
  • Questions: Please email
  • Registering a Group: Please email
  • Accessibility: For disability accommodation requests and information, please contact Danielle Santos at Please attempt to make your service request with as much advance notice as possible.





This course is designed and taught by Amelia Miazad, who founded and leads the Business in Society Institute at Berkeley Law. The Institute explores how ESG and sustainable capitalism are being operationalized in companies and markets today.

Professor Miazad teaches courses at the intersection of sustainability, corporate governance, and compliance. Her recent publications explore sustainability and ESG as a process for overseeing risk and a powerful tool for transforming corporate culture.

Professor Miazad’s curriculum and scholarship relies on input from experts who are implementing environmental and social considerations into their business practices. This pedagogical approach, which blends theory and practice, is reflected in the design of this course.

Module 1 – Articulating and Enacting Corporate Purpose 

For the past few decades, the belief that a corporation’s purpose was primarily to generate profits for shareholders was rarely questioned. Today, the role that companies ought to serve in society is being vigorously debated by regulators, investors, corporate executives, employees, academics, and the general public. We are beginning with corporate purpose because the outcome of this debate will dictate the future of capitalism.

In this module we will address and debate the following questions: 

  • Why is the articulation of corporate purpose so important? 
  • What impact does purpose have on corporate governance and the inner working of companies? 
  • How have legal norms, business norms, and culture shaped our understanding of corporate purpose throughout history, and how are those norms shifting today? 
  • What are the differences between shareholder primacy and short-term profit maximization, and have those two things been conflated?
  • Why are investors, CEOs, and regulators currently advocating for “stakeholder governance” and what are the benefits and risks of making companies accountable to “all stakeholders”? Is stakeholder governance even possible, particularly in bear markets where companies must make tradeoffs between stakeholders to survive? 
  • How can companies effectively communicate their corporate purpose to shareholders and other stakeholders? Are statements of purpose sufficient, or do companies need to demonstrate that they are enacting their purpose? What corporate governance reforms would communicate a commitment to purpose?

The ESG Beat 

Robert Eccles headshot

Robert Eccles

Visiting Professor of Management Practice, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford

On his recent article in the Harvard Business Review, "Three Ways to Put Your Purpose Into Action" (co-authored with Leo Strine & Tim Youmans)

Kaye Foster headshot

Kaye Foster

Board Director

On using corporate purpose to guide board decision making

Keir Gumbs

Chief Legal Officer, Broadridge

On the challenges of communicating corporate purpose to investors.

Alex Heath

Executive Vice President, Social Purpose, Edelman

On how companies define and operationalize their social purpose

Lori Heinel

Executive Vice President & Deputy Global Chief Investment Officer, State Street Global Advisors

On why investors are engaging with companies on corporate purpose & culture

Steven Davidoff Solomon

Professor of Law, Berkeley Law and Faculty Director, Berkeley Center for Law and Business

On his recent paper, "Should Corporations Have a Purpose?" (co-authored with Jill Fish)

Gillian Tett

Chair of Editorial Board & Editor-at- Large, Financial Times, US

On how companies are defining corporate purpose amidst a pandemic

Rupert Younger headshot

Rupert Younger

Director, Oxford University Centre for Corporate Reputation, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford

On the Enacting Purpose Initiative

Module 2 – Redefining the Roles of Government and Business to Address Social and Environmental Challenges

Traditionally companies focused on generating profits and governments addressed harms to society or the environment through regulation. Today, investors, employees, consumers, and NGOs are calling on corporations to address social and environmental challenges, from inequality to climate change. Many companies are embracing this new narrative, and even aligning their brands and business strategies with social and environmental priorities. This recent blurring of the distinction between government and business raises new legal, ethical, and practical challenges. 

In this module we will discuss and debate the following questions:

  • How should companies respond to the growing body of data showing that employees, consumers, and investors are expecting companies to address social and environmental issues? 
  • What are the advantages and harms of this broader articulation of the role of companies?
  • Is “brand activism” fundamentally at odds with social and environmental justice given its profit motive, or do we want an alignment between profit and social values? What challenges does this raise given the fact that companies are not democratic institutions? 
  • How has brand activism played out in the Black Lives Matter movement?  How is the response from consumers and employees different from other movements including the #MeToo movement? 
  • How can companies draw the line between social and environmental issues that they are willing to engage on and those that are best addressed through regulation? What if regulation is not possible due to political deadlock?
  • What if stakeholders are asking companies to engage on issues that have no nexus to the company’s business purpose or strategy? 

The ESG Beat 

Bruce Freed headshot

Bruce Freed

President and Co-founder, Center for Political Accountability

On Corporate Political Accountability

Kent Greenfield

Professor of Law, Boston College Law School

On the seminal Supreme Court cases expanding corporate personhood and his book, "Corporations are People Too (And They Should Act Like It)"

Seth Jaffe

Executive Vice President & General Counsel, Levi Strauss & Co.

On engaging on social issues including gun violence prevention

Tom Lin headshot

Tom Lin

Professor of Law, Temple University School of Law

On his book "The Activist and the Capitalist"

Melissa Murray

Professor of Law, NYU

On her paper, "Consequential Sex" which explores how private actors across the ideological spectrum have sought to fill the regulatory void caused by the state's failure to regulate sexuality.

Chris Pinney

Founding President, High Meadows Institute

On how soft law and business norms can help strengthen the social contract between business and society.

Eunice Rho headshot

Eunice Rho

Deputy Director, Strategic Partnerships at ACLU

On Corporate Engagement on Voting Rights

Amy Weaver

President & Chief Financial Officer, Salesforce

On engaging on social issues including LGBTQ rights and income inequality

Module 3 – Debating the Board’s Fiduciary Duties Under the Traditional and New Corporate Forms

Many states have adopted legislation for new corporate forms which explicitly requires boards to take stakeholders into account. Some caution that these new forms are not necessary because the fiduciary duties of directors under Delaware law already permit or even require boards to take the interests of stakeholders into account. Others, including prominent Delaware justices, argue that while the long-term interests of shareholders and stakeholders often converge in the long-term, it is important to be “clear-eyed” about the limits of traditional corporate forms.

In this module we will address and debate the following questions:

  • Under Delaware corporate law, are directors permitted or even required to consider stakeholders beyond shareholders?
  • The Covid-19 pandemic has forced some companies to navigate trade-offs between different stakeholders for the first time. How has this pandemic revealed the limits of the business judgement rule? 
  • What are the key differences between the most common types of benefit corporations including the Delaware Public Benefit Corporation, the California Benefit Corporation, and the California Flexible Purpose Corporation?
  • Are the new corporate forms necessary, or even counter-productive, given the evolving interpretations of the board’s fiduciary duties to consider stakeholder interests? 
  • Should corporate governance be legislated at the national level to address the externalities of companies on our society and the planet?
  • What are the limitations of regulation and should the investor and business community articulate new business norms to provide guardrails on corporate conduct?

The ESG Beat 

Rick Alexander

Founder, The Shareholder Commons, Author of The Benefit Corporation Law & Governance

On the Delaware Public Benefit Corporation and the impact of the new corporate forms impact on a board's fiduciary duties to consider the company's externalities

Suz Mac Cormac

Partner, Morrison & Foerster LLP

On drafting and passing the first new corporate form in California and the future of new corporate forms

Elizabeth Pollman

Professor of Law, University of Pennsylvania

On her recent paper, "The Corporate Governance Machine" (co-authored with Dorothy Lund)

Bill Savitt

Partner, Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz

On recent Delaware cases interpreting the fiduciary duties of directors under the Caremark doctrine

Leo Strine headshot

Leo Strine

Of Counsel, Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. Former Chief Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court

On the limits of Delaware law to account for stakeholders and corporate governance reforms that offer more promise

Cynthia A. Williams headshot

Cynthia A. Williams

Professor Emeritus, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University

On the board’s fiduciary duties to oversee climate change risk

Module 4 – Communicating with Investors on Environmental and Social Risks and Priorities   

While in the past the communication between shareholders and the companies they invested in took place during quarterly earnings calls and annual proxy fights, today, investors are engaging with companies year-round. This engagement enables the investors’ to exert soft power to persuade companies to change voluntarily. When that soft power fails, investors are ratcheting up the pressure by filing shareholder proposals and voting against individual directors. While engagement is increasing, how it works in practice remains opaque since, unlike proxy wars or disclosure, it occurs behind closed doors.

In this module we will address and debate the following questions:

  • Why are investors increasingly focused on ESG and what do they expect from companies?
  • How do investor’s own fiduciary duties square with engaging on environmental and social issues?
  • What are the limits to investors’ focus on ESG? Can they really separate between values-based positions that are not aligned with value-creation?
  • How has the concentration of capital in fewer large asset owners and managers impacted investor focus on ESG?
  • How do investors communicate their ESG priorities with companies, and how can companies effectively respond?
  • What are the mechanics of the engagement process from the perspective of investors and corporate executives?

The ESG Beat 

Krystal Berrini

Partner, PJT Camberview

On how boards and corporate executives can effectively communicate with investors on environmental and social risks

Michelle Edkins

Managing Director, Global Head, BlackRock’s Investment Stewardship Team

On what investors view as effective communication by companies on environmental and social risks

John Goldstein

Head of the Sustainable Finance Group, Goldman Sachs

On leading the sustainable investment strategy and Goldman Sachs which prioritizes inclusive growth and climate transition

Vanessa Havard-Williams

Partner, Linklaters LLP

On the fiduciary duties of investors to incorporate ESG into their decisions

Courteney Keatinge

Director, Glass Lewis, ESG Research

On the role of proxy advisors in considering E&S issues into their voting recommendations

Brian Tomlinson

Director of Research, CECP’s CEO Investor Forum

On embedding ESG in earnings call discussions

Tim Youmans

Lead - North America | Hermes EOS. Formerly Research Director for the Strategic Investor Initiative, CECP.

On the mechanics of investor stewardship and the increasing salience of ESG in the engagement process

Josh Zinner

CEO, Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility

On shareholder proposals on environmental and social issues

Module 5 – Governing ESG Risks and Opportunities

ESG is not a discrete set of issue areas, but a robust and cross-functional process that allows companies to seek continual input from internal and external stakeholders. This communication enables companies to mitigate risk and seize business opportunities. In light of the growing number of existing and emerging crises, investors are increasingly turning to a robust ESG function as a proxy for sound risk oversight.

In this module we will address and debate the following questions:

  • What are the different steps of the ESG process?
  • How does each step operate in practice to elicit information from key stakeholders in order to flag emerging and unknown risks and identify new business opportunities?
  • What are leading practices for eliciting stakeholder input from regulators, employees, suppliers, and the general public?
  • How does ESG interact with traditional enterprise risk management including compliance?
  • How have companies leveraged their ESG process, and in particular communication with stakeholders, to be more resilient to the Covid-19 crisis?

The ESG Beat 

Allison Bennington

Partner, PJT Partners Global Head of ESG Advisory Practice; Head of Activist Defense and Preparedness

On how boards can effectively leverage ESG.

Rob Chesnut

Former Chief Ethics Officer, Airbnb & Author of Intentional Integrity

On the importance of a culture of integrity in mitigating risk

Heidi Dubois

Global Head of ESG, Edelman

On embedding ESG into business strategy

Stavros Gadinis

Professor of Law, Berkeley Law

On his recent paper "Corporate Law and Social Risk" (with Amelia Miazad)

Silvia M. Garrigó

Chief Sustainability Officer, Caribbean Cruise Lines

On integrating ESG into enterprise risk management

Irene Liu

Chief Legal Officer, Hopin

On proactive engagement with regulators

Veronica Root Martinez

Professor of Law, Notre Dame Law School

On her recent paper "Complex Compliance Investigations" and on the law review article, "Diversity Metrics"

Module 6 – Measuring and Disclosing Environmental and Social Risks and Priorities

The lack of standardized metrics to hold companies accountable to their environmental and social commitments has impeded the ESG movement. To the frustration of investors and corporate executives, there are numerous standard setters, rating agencies, and data providers. After several years of investor demand, the SEC has recently proposed rules governing the “Enhancement and Standardization of Climate-Related Disclosures for Investors.

In this module we will address and debate the following questions:

  • What are the key ESG standard-setters, and which standards should companies report to?
  • What are the differences between standards, frameworks, rating agencies, and data providers? And how can companies leverage each to communicate their ESG priorities to investors and stakeholders?
  • What is the current state of play with respect to mandatory reporting of human capital management and climate risk?
  • What are the investors’ expectations for disclosure of ESG, and how do those differ from the expectations of other stakeholders?
  • Given limited resources, what types of disclosure should companies prioritize?
  • What are specific examples of companies that are effectively communicating their ESG risks and priorities with investors and stakeholders?

The ESG Beat 

Jeff Hales

Professor of Accounting, University of Texas at Austin & Chair, SASB - Sustainability Accounting Standards Board

On using SASB's industry-specific sustainability standards to communicate with investors

Jim Hawley

Head Applied Research, TruValue Labs and Professor of Economics and Business, Saint Mary's College of California

On using "big data" to uncover whether companies are authentic in their commitment to ESG

Anne Sheehan headshot

Anne Sheehan

Chair, Securities and Exchange Commission's Investor Advisory Committee
Director, LBrands

On the SEC's growing focus on mandatory disclosure of environmental and social risks

Anne Tucker

Faculty Director, Legal Analytics & Innovation Initiative, Georgia State University College of Law

On her paper "Buyer Beware: Variation and Opacity in ESG Index Funds" (with Dana Brackman Reiser)

Module 7 – Valuing Employees and the Workforce

Today, intangible assets which include a company’s workforce account for the overwhelming majority of its value. Despite this, the Covid-19 pandemic revealed just how vulnerable many workers today are. As a result, investors are engaging more than ever on how companies are treating their workforce and overseeing corporate culture.

In this module, we will address and debate the following questions:

  • Why are investors and other stakeholders focused on the workforce?
  • What are the tradeoffs between the interests of employees and those of other stakeholders, and how are companies navigating those tradeoffs?
  • What is the board’s role in ensuring that corporate executives are fostering a strong corporate culture and meeting the needs of employees, contractors, and workers? 
  • What are ways that companies can ensure that input from employees is incorporated into corporate decision-making? 
  • Should there be employee representation on the board? If not, what are some corporate governance structures that would allow for employees to have more influence? 
  • What are best practices of companies that are demonstrating their commitment to their workforce? 

The ESG Beat 

Anne Sheehan headshot

Anne Sheehan

Chair, Securities and Exchange Commission's Investor Advisory Committee
Director, LBrands

Leo Strine headshot

Leo Strine

Of Counsel, Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, Former Chief Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court

On novel corporate governance reforms to address the rights of workers and income inequality

Module 8 – Prioritizing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

An increasing number of businesses have made public commitments to support diversity, equity, and inclusion. Many of these businesses have faced investor and stakeholder scrutiny for failing to align their business strategies and operations with these commitments. This gap between public statements and business practices has led to legal, reputational, and business risk for companies. 

In this module, we will address and debate the following questions:

  • What are best practices for prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion?
  • How can companies measure and report their progress on diversity, equity, and inclusion?
  • What is the board’s role in ensuring that it is fostering a culture that values diversity, equity, and inclusion? 
  • Why are regulators increasingly focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion?

The ESG Beat

Afra Afsharipour

Professor of Law at University of California, Davis School of Law

On her recent paper "Bias, Identity, and M&A"

Lloyd Carney

Independent Director, Visa Inc. and Chairman & CEO, Carney Global Ventures, LLC

On the value of diversity to effective board oversight

Dorothy Lund

Assistant Professor of Law, USC Gould School of Law

On her paper "Sexual Harassment and Corporate Law" (with Daniel Hemel)

Module 9 – Respecting Human Rights

Despite the sustained progress on supply chain management, many companies have multi-tiered supply chains that remain opaque. As a result, forced labor and child labor remains common in supply chains throughout sectors. A number of jurisdictions around the world have passed legislation to increase legal liability for companies who fail to oversee their supply chains. As these abuses are becoming more transparent through social media, companies are also facing mounting reputational risks. And these practices run afoul of the commitments that companies themselves have made to abide by human rights standards and norms. More recently, Covid-19 has heightened investor focus on supply chain management because weak supply chain oversight is disrupting business continuity.

In this module we will discuss and debate the following questions:

  • What are the increased legal and regulatory risks of failing to oversee supply chain risks, and how is that risk intensifying due to the Covid-19 pandemic?
  • What are specific examples of companies that invested in mapping their supply chains and communicating with their suppliers before the pandemic and how is that helping them navigate business disruption?
  • How are investors engaging with companies on their supply chain vulnerabilities, and what do investors expect companies to do?
  • What are the emerging technologies and approaches to address supply chain risks, and do these pose other risks such as data privacy?
  • What are examples of companies that are effectively overseeing their supply chains?

The ESG Beat 

Jaren Dunning headshot

Jaren Dunning

Human Rights Director, PepsiCo

On the challenges of managing highly complex supply chains in a pandemic

Kilian Moote headshot

Kilian Moote

Director, Forced Labor & Human Trafficking, Humanity United

On innovative practices to address forced labor in complex supply chains

Faris Natour headshot

Faris Natour

Director & Lecturer, Human Rights & Business Initiative for the Center for Responsible Business, Haas School of Business - University of California, Berkeley

On engaging with technology companies on human rights risks

Chloe Poynton headshot

Chloe Poynton

Co-Founder & Principal at Article One Advisors

On engaging with technology companies on human rights risks

Sandy Tesch Wilkins headshot

Sandy Tesch Wilkins

Director, Forced Labor & Human Trafficking, Humanity United

On innovative practices to address forced labor in complex supply chains

Module 10 – Building Resilience Against Environmental Risks

The largest investors and asset managers in the world are sounding the alarm bells–climate change is now an investment risk. Consumers and employees are also demanding that companies manage their impacts on the environment. As the pressure for companies to react with specific actions is mounting, they are responding in a variety of novel ways. These strategies include reformulating business practices and products, recruiting climate competent directors and tying executive compensation to climate change goals.

In this module we will address the following questions:

  • Have consumer expectations changed with respect to a company’s environmental practices, and does this represent any tangible business risk to companies? Are consumers actually changing their buying behavior?
  • How have employees’ expectations changed and are companies risking losing talent? Is this less of a concern in today’s market, with high unemployment numbers?
  • How are investors leveraging their influence over companies who are failing to oversee climate risk?
  • What is the basis for the increased number of shareholder proposals on climate risk, and have those been successful?
  • Is there more legal risk to corporate executives and directors for failing to oversee or disclose the risk of climate change? What actions are companies taking to address environmental risks and which ones are addressing stakeholder concerns?
  • What is the role of the board in overseeing climate change risk?

The ESG Beat 

Hilary Dessouky

General Counsel, Patagonia

On embedding Patagonia's mission to save our home planet into the legal function

Veena Ramani

Former Senior Program Director, Capital Market Systems, CERES

On effective board oversight of environmental risks

Anne Simpson

Director, Board Governance & Strategy - Executive Office, CalPERS

On the increasing focus by pension funds on ESG issues

Cynthia A. Williams

Professor of Law, Osgoode Hall Law School

On the fiduciary duties of directors and trustees to consider climate change risks and opportunities in their oversight, strategies, and investments

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