Coronavirus COVID-19 information:
Owing to the global health crisis the 2020 iteration of the Sustainable Finance Foundation Course has been postponed. Whilst unfortunate we have made this decision with the safety and security of students, staff and faculty in mind.

Aligning finance with sustainability is a necessary condition for tackling the environmental challenges facing humanity. It is also necessary for financial institutions (and policymakers and regulators) to manage environment-related risks, as well as capture opportunities associated with the transition to global environmental sustainability.

The Sustainable Finance Foundation Course (SFFC) was launched in 2016 and is the premier short-course on sustainable finance globally. We aim to attract the best and brightest current and future leaders and deliver a unique experience that equips participants with the knowledge and networks required to undertake significant future work on sustainable finance. The course is centred around a five-day residential workshop held at the University of Oxford.

The course has been designed and developed by the Oxford Sustainable Finance Programme as an introduction to sustainable finance for professionals working in a range of sectors, for example: executives working in financial institutions that need to understand how sustainability, the environment, and climate change relates to finance and investment; civil servants, regulators, and central bankers working to develop policies that can foster the development of sustainable finance; staff at environmental NGOs who would like to help the global financial system create better environmental outcomes; philanthropic funders looking to navigate sustainable finance topics so as to support the most impactful activities; and trustees or company directors that want to understand how sustainable finance relates to their fiduciary duties.

Participants will engage critically with systems and theories in sustainable finance and investment such as: active ownership, the carbon bubble, climate finance, conservation finance, disclosure, divestment, engagement, ESG, green banks, green bonds, green benchmarks and indices, impact investing, public private partnerships, reporting, responsible investment, stranded assets, and green taxonomies.

The SFFC is the Oxford Sustainable Finance Programme's flagship executive course. Participants will become part of our growing alumni community and receive invitations to our events and conferences. All alumni also receive a 15% discount on all other Oxford Sustainable Finance Programme open enrolment executive courses.

The Oxford Residential

The residential workshop is held over five consecutive days at the University of Oxford.

Through the course participants will:

  • Develop a foundational knowledge in the emerging theories and practice of sustainable finance and investment.
  • Become confident in navigating and critically analysing the key aspects and developments in sustainable finance, as well as how to engage with different financial sector stakeholders for collaboration.
  • Study how different policies, regulations and supervisory expectations related to sustainable finance are evolving in different jurisdictions, their direction of travel, and opportunities for influence.
  • Become part of a global network of like-minded professionals that are approaching sustainable finance from different angles and professional perspectives.
  • Learn from, challenge, and engage in conversation with leading Oxford faculty and expert practitioners who blend research with experience. Cutting edge theory on sustainable finance and investment will be examined using a combination of real world case-studies, presentations, and Oxford Union-styled debates.
  • Embark on the unique 'Oxford experience' and explore first-hand the richness that the city has to offer including candlelit college dinners and the opportunity to immerse themselves in one of the global homes of education.

Our courses are designed to equip participants with essential foundational knowledge of core principles and concepts in sustainable finance, as well as an advanced understanding of the very latest developments. They are the ideal preparation for current and emerging professional examinations in sustainable finance and related areas.

Capstone Projects

Over the subsequent six months after the residential participants will engage in an extended learning exercise implementing a project related to finance and sustainability. It is intended to demonstrate application and growth from course learning.

The capstone project will need to be related to sustainable finance. It can be a personal project, a project as part of your job, a campaign, a commercial venture, a research project, or something else.

The Course Directors will help you along the way, for example, by providing feedback and introductions to people that might be able to help. You will also be supported by the network of peers from your cohort.

Examples of projects include:

  • An investment case or business model to present to an investment institution;
  • An advocacy campaign or strategy to leverage the influence of markets and finance for environmental benefit; and
  • Or a substantive alternative project of relevance to the participant's work (subject to faculty approval).

[Sustainable Finance Foundation Course, University of Oxford]

Dr Ben Caldecott (Course Director & Founding Director, Oxford Sustainable Finance Programme): So the sustainable finance foundation course - it's our flagship course, we do it once a year, and what we're trying to do is to bring together the best and brightest future leaders who are going to shape the future of sustainable finance around the world. It's for people that want to know more about sustainable finance, people that want to have a firm foundation in this area, so they can go go forward and influence and shape and these different markets, these different policy areas. Of course the topics themselves will change over time, this space is evolving very very quickly, so we're really... we emphasize the need to understand the key principles and foundations of this area so they can apply those to different contexts.

James Cameron (Global Advisory Council Member, Oxford Sustainable Finance Programme): It's beyond important to know about sustainable finance, and not just if you're a finance professional. There's a large amount of ignorance, illiteracy about finance in other critical parts of our economy and society. There's a lot of mistrust. There is a need to translate, to interpret, to build confidence that languages can be connected, combined, properly understood - what are the motivations behind an investor's investment? Why why do they have their risk and return obsession stand in the way of things that you think are important they ought to be investing in? How do you communicate your desire for where you want the money to go with theirs and their professional standards, the ways in which they are rewarded and incentivized? This is a space which requires constant connecting and reconnecting explaining and sometimes just spending time together so that relationships can be built for trust and understanding which make it more likely that we will channel the capital that we have, and we don't lack capital in the world, towards the solutions to these big systemic environment and development risks of which climate change is the most significant driving many other risks.

Dr Ben Caldecott: So what we're trying to do with the course is to take each participant through a bit of a journey. So, the first day is focused on key principles of sustainable finance. The second day is focused on how do we get capital to flow into solutions to climate change, to the big environmental challenges we are facing, particularly on biodiversity of nature? It's these questions of what are the conditions that need to hold for investment to flow at scales to solve the problems? The third day is focused on: how we green the financial system; how the financial institutions measure risk; how do they manage it? The fourth day is about applying those concepts to company strategy and to, we have this this tradition and Oxford of debating and we bring people to debate at the Oxford Union - one of the oldest debating societies in the world, and then we're also, throughout the course and on the fifth day, trying to bring this all together - particularly around coursework and the capstone project. Each student has a capstone project, essentially a project of theirs for six to nine months after they do after the course. There is support after the course finishes from us, from their peer group, and these projects can vary enormously from writing a book through to developing a new corporate strategy to deal with climate change, through to financing different projects, to campaigns - so a whole range of different projects that people undertake and one of the attractions is that people can apply what they've learned but also bring back what they've learned in a tangible form to the organization that they're based in.

Mike Wilkins (Global Advisory Council Member, Oxford Sustainable Finance Programme): I think the Oxford Sustainable Finance Foundation Course is very important as a good grounding in understanding how the capital markets, the debt markets, the equity markets, operate and how that interacts with climate change and resilience and adaptation objectives from a policy perspective.

James Cameron: A course, such as this, is a brilliant contribution to the effort that we need to undertake pretty much everywhere in the world, maybe particularly in the financial centres of the world, so that we can make capital flow fit the scale of the climate problem that we've got.