Social Impact & Responsibility

As of academic year 2023-2024, the Social Impact and Responsibility concentration has been replaced by the Environmental, Social and Governance Factors for Business (ESGB) concentration.

Social impact and responsibility is a broad, multidisciplinary, and evolving area. The social impact & responsibility concentration is designed to help students address the question: “How should business enterprises and business thinking be engaged to improve society in areas not always associated with business?”

For students dedicated to working in the social sector, the secondary concentration helps to put their specific interests into a broader context. For other students, the secondary concentration allows them to build on their primary concentration with a social impact perspective, and to think critically about the role of business in society.

The concentration consists of one foundation course (LGST 2300), one focus course, one application course, and one elective. One of the four credits for the concentration must contain a significant experiential component that gives students the opportunity to pursue field work or an in-depth project.

What type of student is this concentration a good fit for?

This concentration is a good fit is for those students who think about changing the world and want to use business enterprises and business thinking to improve society. The concentration gives students a holistic approach, examining the intersection of business and social value through the provision of theoretical foundations, study of current approaches, and experiential learning.

Is there a particular course or experience that can help determine if this concentration is a good fit?

Students might take LGST 2300: Social Impact and Responsibility to determine whether or not the concentration is a good fit. The course provides a broad overview of the themes highlighted within the concentration.

Joining social impact organizations (such as Penn International Impact Consulting, the Microfinance Club, Social Impact Consulting, and/or PennSEM) might also help students make the determination.  Students might also wish to reach out to other students and alumni who have concentrated in social impact—contact the concentration advisor to be put in touch with concentrators.

Are there other concentrations or upper-level courses in other departments that would pair well with this concentration?

Other concentrations that would pair well with this concentration include Finance, Management, and Marketing.  These are the primary concentrations chosen by a large numbers of students doing the Social Impact and Responsibility concentration. The combination of the secondary concentration with these has enabled alumni to work on things as varied as social business consulting, impact investing, education technology, and microfinance.

What skills or knowledge will students gain from this concentration?

The secondary concentration helps put students’ specific interests into a broader context.  The concentration also allows them to build on their primary concentration with a social impact perspective, and to think critically about the role of business in society.

What careers or industries is this concentration a good fit for?

Many! Areas and questions for students to consider are:

  • MANAGEMENT: How can managerial and strategic concepts be integrated with a firm’s social responsibility? How can these concepts be applied to non-profit organizations to generate greater social value? 
  • FINANCE: What strategies can investment managers use to maximize both financial return and social good?
  • MARKETING: How are marketing tactics used to promote social causes?
  • REAL ESTATE: How can real estate development improve underserved communities?
  • ENTREPRENEURSHIP: How can entrepreneurial practice be coupled with social impact goals to create social enterprise?

Student Profile: Alex Dinsmoor

Why did you choose this concentration?

Like most students entering Wharton, I didn’t know which concentration I would choose; I just knew I was fascinated by the power of business. As time passed, social impact extracurriculars began to consumer much of my free time, for example working as a literacy tutor in West Philadelphia, becoming a civic development intern for The Netter Center, and working as TA for a social policy and citizenship academically-based community service course. As a junior, I first noticed the split between my academics and my extracurriculars, and I began to ask imperative questions about my future.  How could I use the business acumen I’m developing in Wharton to help the community? How could I bridge the gap between my public sector heart and private sector mind? It soon became clear that adding the Social Impact & Responsibility concentration was the answer.

What course did you choose to take first in this concentration and why?

I first took URBS 2080, an academically-based community service course. I took the course because I had developed great interest in the subject while working for the Penn Reading Initiative, a literacy tutoring group. At the time, I had not yet added my Social Impact & Responsibility concentration.

What was your favorite course in this concentration and why?

My favorite course in this concentration has been LGST 2300, the foundational course. This course revolutionized the way I view social impact; before the course, I tended to view social impact solely as a nonprofit aim. However, I now realize that for-profit businesses can have immense social impact and some nonprofits could be more effective if they adopted business tools.

What advice would you give to a student who is considering this concentration?

I would advise anyone considering this concentration to enroll in LGST 2300 as early as possible. Taking this course will not only help you determine if this concentration is right for you, but will also shape the way you view your postgraduate opportunities. Additionally, I would emphasize that this concentration is extremely flexible, which makes it a wonderful secondary concentration to explore your additional interests and passions.

What concentration-related skills have you used during internships or other work experiences?

I worked as a health actuarial consultant for Deloitte last summer. Outside of my client work, I sought involvement in Deloitte Academy, an initiative that enables Deloitte professionals to aid inner-city high school students in college preparation and professional development. My work in West Philadelphia high schools, which serves as my experiential component for this concentration, proved extremely relevant.

Student Profile: Heena Khoja

Why did you choose this concentration?

I came to Penn knowing that I wanted to study social impact because community service had been a huge part of my life in high school, and I always hoped to learn about the interaction between business and service. I wished to end up in the nonprofit sector so I felt that pursuing a Social Impact concentration would help teach me the skills to become involved in nonprofit management some day.

What course did you choose to take first in this concentration and why?

The first course I took was BEPP 2140: Nonprofit Sector: Economic Challenges and Strategic Responses because it was a new course being offered for the first time. In retrospect, I wish I would have taken the mandatory LGST 2300 course (Introduction to Social Impact) first because it covers a lot of the same topics that are discussed in other social impact classes I have taken. If I had known this, I would have tried to take courses that have less overlap.

What was your favorite course in this concentration and why?

My favorite course that I counted toward this concentration is called Social Innovation, which is under the Nonprofit Leadership Development program in the School of Social Policy and Practice. This course did a great job of explaining business concepts as they apply to social impact and enterprise and allowing us to practice some of the models in use today.

What advice would you give to a student who is considering this concentration?

If possible, try to take LGST 2300 first so that you don’t end up learning the same thing in a bunch of different classes. However, because the field is still developing, it will be impossible to avoid some overlap between models/frameworks taught in the relevant courses. In addition, be creative and diverse with the classes you choose to take. Instead of all Wharton classes, consider taking an ABCS or NPLD course that might fulfill the required credits and provide a more hands-on experience.

What concentration-related skills have you used during internships or other work experiences? 

All of my work experiences in college have been at nonprofits, so I’ve been able to use the frameworks from my concentration courses to understand various nonprofit models. For example, I was able to apply my knowledge about logic models and impact assessment during my nonprofit consulting internship last summer. My classes have enabled me to critically assess nonprofits and the impact that they hope to achieve in their communities.

What is your other concentration and why?

I have a primary concentration in Management, as Social Impact can only be taken as a secondary concentration. I started out with the goal of ending up in nonprofit management, so this seemed like a good mix of concentrations to take. Although I am now more interested in pursuing nonprofit consulting, I have really enjoyed my management courses because they have taught me about general business strategy, which I believe will be helpful in consulting for nonprofits as well.