Faculty and Courses
A passion for teaching. A passion for research.
A passion for impact.
At Wharton Social Impact, we are proud to work closely with the many members of the Wharton faculty who teach and research business-driven social impact.
Social impact belongs to no single academic department or discipline. It cuts across Finance, Management, Marketing, Operations, Statistics, and more, uniting faculty in the quest to identify sustainable business solutions for the world’s greatest challenges.
“If your goal is to make a real difference – to have a demonstrable and sustainable impact in solving a major social or environmental problem – you really need to understand the problem. Business smarts and good intentions aren’t enough. In my Social Impact Strategies course, we take a deep dive into two social issues each semester: food insecurity in the US; barriers to college access; and/or the revolving prison door of recidivism. We read the research. We meet with experts.
And, then we meet with leading organizations working on these topics – organizations like First Book, The Daily Table, Revolution Foods, The College Board, Turner Impact Capital, The Last Mile, and EDOVO. Because we’ve dug into relevant research and frameworks, we have deep and productive conversations with the leaders of these organizations. My students gain an appreciation of the various ways that they can make a difference in their own careers. They are informed by research and inspired by leaders in the field. That combination is very powerful.”
—Katherine Klein, Vice Dean, Professor of Management
“I think the best way companies can have a long-term, sustainable profit stream is by having a positive development impact, social impact, community impact and ensuring that the areas around them are growing and profiting, particularly in emerging markets.
I teach a course called Corporate Diplomacy. I hope students walk out of my course knowing that if they see a problem in their work – a multi-million dollar potential environmental lawsuit, a corruption scandal, a short-term choice that’s going to hurt the company in the long-run – they have the knowledge and tools to advocate for a better, long-term strategy.”
—Witold Henisz, Professor of Management
“Social enterprises are trying to pull off a really tricky balancing act. Often their goals pull against each other, and this creates internal frictions and strategic ambiguities. In addition, many funders are used to either supporting for-profit businesses or supporting charities – not social enterprises. Really, according to most organizational theories, social enterprises shouldn’t even exist. From a theoretical point of view, just about everything they do is counterintuitive and sets them up to fail. Still, we know that many social enterprises thrive and impact society in very positive ways. I’m interested in understanding how this happens, why this happens when it happens, and when it doesn’t.”
—Tyler Wry, Associate Professor of Management
“Managers need to think critically about how business firms can and should respond to our era’s most challenging environmental issues, including climate change. The environment is a core component of social impact.
In my course Environmental Management, Law, and Policy, I want my students to gain an appreciation of the multi-faceted nature of the interactions among business firms, regulators, and the environment. Firms don’t just comply with external legal rules. Instead, they are active participants in the process of environmental standard-setting and innovation. Business and technological innovations such as in the sharing economy, distributed solar generation, and autonomous vehicles hold environmental promise and are forcing regulators to respond to the policy disruptions they create. In my course we examine a series of case studies in which law, policy, and business intersect.”
—Sarah E. Light, Associate Professor of Legal Studies & Business Ethics
“I’m studying the built environment – the physical layout of urban neighborhoods. There’s a lot of urban planning theory that suggests that the built environment – specifically, the extent to which the layout and built environment of a neighborhood really encourage people to be active in public spaces – influences the safety and vibrancy of the neighborhood.
It’s only recently that we’ve been able to collect data at a high resolution and on a large enough scale to empirically evaluate some of these historical theories. Can we offer guidance to cities that help cities reduce crime and increase urban vibrancy?”
—Shane Jensen, Professor of Statistics
“In the next five to ten years, I believe impact investing will continue to help investors direct their capital towards issues they care about. There’s a wide variety of issues that you’ll see addressed by impact funds. It could be literacy, it could be clean water, it could be pollution, it could be how you pay your workers. You can think of it as two bottom lines: making money and making the world a better place.
There was no database where you could go ask questions about impact investing, so I worked with Wharton Social Impact to amass a tremendous database of impact investing funds. It’s only going to grow in magnitude and importance as we continue our research.”