Businesses and universities need to work together to develop a balanced formula for responsible leadership that aligns with sustainable development goals while maintaining the economic incentives for businesses to exist. This was stated by Olga Dergunova, Deputy President and Chairman of the Management Board of VTB Bank, Director of the Graduate School of Management at St. Petersburg University (GSOM SPbU) in her speech at the Digital CFO conference, organized by ACCA, an international association of professionals in the field of finance and accounting.
Olga Dergunova emphasized that the ESG topic (Environmental, Social, and (Corporate) Governance) today is becoming a part of the everyday activity of any manager and financier, having a direct impact on the economic performance of the company. The cost of debt and equity capital begins to depend on how green the company is. The issue of business ethics determines the sales markets. The choice of the non-financial reporting standard directly affects the taxation and, accordingly, the company's net profit. “Of the 110 trillion dollars available on the public markets, more than 70 trillion are attributed with the ESG theme. In 2020 alone, green investments have reached more than $ 700 billion in the world," she said.
“How to immerse the generation of millennials who have come to college today into the ESG agenda? What can I personally do for this? The simplest, but most effective, is to come to universities and invest in the creation of new knowledge. Organize a discussion, try to find a common answer together. Contribute to the development of a new generation of responsible leaders who will critically and sensibly understand ESG as the value of developing society in the interests of future generations,” Olga Dergunova noted, inviting financial practitioners to take part in the joint development of university-based approaches to the implementation of sustainable development principles in educational process and business practices.
“Today it is important for students that any problem is discussed with them not in a paternalistic way — when they are taught what needs to be learned — but on an equal footing. In this sense, the ESG theme is especially good. Here you can discuss and together look for an answer to the question of where is the balance point between the components of the ESG and other elements of the economy. Together, it is important for us to agree on universal criteria to exclude manipulation of the ESG topic. We need to agree on how we understand these three letters — without losing the economic motivation of companies and ensuring the protection of the interests of society,” Olga Dergunova emphasized.
By updating GSOM SPbU Bachelor and Master programs, Business school seeks to introduce ESG issues into educational disciplines as a cross-cutting topic. The curriculum includes courses on sustainable finance, socially responsible business conduct, and research in the field of CSR and ESG. The principles of sustainable development are one of the key priorities of the GSOM SPbU Development Strategy until 2025, and “responsible leadership” is among the fundamental values of the Business School.
ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the global body for professional accountants.
The GSOM SPbU Master in Corporate Finance (MCF) is accredited by the ACCA. This allows students, in case of successful completion of the curriculum, to receive an official сredits in nine disciplines of the certificate.