CFA ESG Certificate: Our Easy Guide

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The COVID-19 pandemic has brought ESG (environmental, social and governance) issues to the forefront of everyone’s minds.

ESG matters. And investors and companies around the world are reacting fast to this current situation, pointing to a longer term demand for investment professionals with green finance and responsible investment knowledge.

CFA Institute’s ESG Certificate (now available globally via online proctoring) may be a practical and affordable answer to augment your current skillset with some sustainable finance credentials.

Here’s the ultimate guide with all the info you need!


Overview of Certificate In ESG Investing

CFA ESG Certificate: Our Easy Guide 1

Launched by CFA UK in 2019, the Certificate in ESG Investing is designed to meet the investment sector’s increasing demand for further education, guidance and standards around ESG (environmental, social and governance).

Since its launch, the CFA ESG certificate has already registered more than 5,000 registrations.

With increasing demand globally since launch, CFA UK decided to work with CFA Institute to make Certificate in ESG Investing a truly global credential with better worldwide access. Therefore, this certificate will gradually transition to CFA Institute by end of 2021.

This course goes for a broad framework approach, teaching its candidates how to analyze and integrate material ESG factors into their day-to-day investment roles. It is designed for investment professionals in all roles, from asset management to sales and distribution, as well as students seeking a career in the investment sector.

The Certificate in ESG Investing is also recognized by the UN PRI (Principles for Responsible Investment), a leading proponent of responsible investment. Although supported (but not part of) United Nations (UN), UN PRI  is an independent, non-profit organization that seeks to encourage investors to use responsible investment to enhance returns and better manage business risks.

With its first exams available in UK since December 2019, CFA UK has expanded the ESG course’s availability to 9 other European countries: Switzerland, Finland, Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg, Ireland, France, Spain and Denmark – we expect there are further plans to launch in additional markets in the near future, especially since it will transition to CFA Institute’s portfolio of programs.

That said, online proctoring options via Pearson’s OnVue is available for most countries except Cuba, Iran, North Korea, South Korea, Sudan, Syria, Crimea and Sevastopol region, Japan and China.


CFA ESG Certificate In A Nutshell

CFA UK ESG Certification summarized

The Certificate in ESG Investing:

  • is designed to equip investment professionals with a base knowledge and skillset to integrate ESG factors into the investment process. With no formal entry criteria, it is suitable for a broad range of financial services professionals (not just investment-related) who are keen to understand ESG issues;
  • consists of a one-part, computer-based testing exam consisting of 100 questions in 2 hour and 20 minutes, with remote exam testing now available as of 8th June 2020;
  • has 2 types of questions in this exam: standard multiple-choice and item sets, i.e. there are no ‘essay’ type, constructed-response exams like CFA Level 3.

​Similar to most other professional designations such as CFAFRMIMC or CAIA, the ESG Investing certificate is also a self-directed learning program:

  • The course starts with a broad overview of the ESG factors, before focusing on how to apply these knowledge in portfolio construction, valuation, analysis and analytics reporting.
  • In terms of study hours, it is recommended that ESG exam candidates devote around 130 hours in total to complete the certification.
  • CFA UK publishes the Official Training Manual (OTM), which forms the syllabus ESG exams are based on. The syllabus is updated every year on 1st September, and covers exams taken during 1st Sep to the following 31 August. It is important to make sure you have the right syllabus for your exam timeframe.

The ESG exam can be taken remotely via online proctoring, or physically at Pearson VUE test centres in the UK, and at selected overseas sites all year round. You can find your nearest ESG test center here. Candidates are required to sit the exam within 12 months of the registration date.

All candidates taking the Certificate in ESG Investing exam will now receive their exam result on the screen at the end of the exam. This applies to candidates testing in test centres as well as candidates taking their exam via remote/online proctoring. At the end of the exam, candidates can access their provisional grade report via the Pearson VUE website. The result is a simple pass or fail, with no details on exact score.


Pass Rates & Pass Marks

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Just like Investment Management Certificate, the Certificate in ESG Investing is a Level 4 qualification, which means that the level of difficulty of the qualification broadly equates to the first-year of an undergraduate degree.

According to a candidate who passed recently (who is also a CFA charterholder and IMC certificate holder)about 25% of the ESG Investing exam questions are quantitative.

The pass mark ranges from 60%-70%, with an average pass rate of 60%-75%. These figures are similar to IMC, which if both are passed, will get you an IMD (Investment Management Diploma) from CFA UK. Sweet!


Topic Areas & Weights

CFA ESG Certificate: Our Easy Guide 2

The Certificate in ESG Investing consists of 1 exam with 100 multiple-choice and item-set questions, with an allocated time of 2 hours and 20 minutes.

The ESG syllabus has 9 chapters which covers a broad overview of the development of ESG investing, combined with technical aspects such as portfolio constructions.

​The topics areas and exam weights are as below:

ESG Investing Certificate Topic AreasTopic Weights
Introduction to ESG4% – 8%
The ESG Market4% – 8%
Environmental Factors6% – 12%
Social Factors6% – 12%
Governance Factors6% – 12%
Engagement & Stewardship6% – 10%
ESG Analysis, Valuation & Integration20% – 32%
​ESG Integrated Portfolio Construction & Management8% – 14%
Investment Mandates, Portfolio Analytics & Client Reporting4% – 8%

Exam Fees & Costs

The ESG Investing exam fee structure is nice and straightforward:

  • Registration fee and online learning materials cost £485;
  • Hard copies of the syllabus can be purchased for an extra £40 + shipping.

It is a cost effective and time efficient investment to demonstrate green finance /responsible investing credentials internationally.


Exam Schedule & Key Deadlines

CFA ESG Certificate: Our Easy Guide 3

The Certificate in ESG Investing is currently available in the UK and at a number of international test centres in Europe, with plans to further expand this qualification globally.

Just like Investment Management Certificate (IMC), candidates can sit for Certificate in ESG Investing throughout the year (except holidays and weekends).

That said, candidates must carefully plan the time of exam registration, bearing in mind that the ESG Investing syllabus (Official Training Manual, OTM) gets updated annually on 1st September and remains until 31st August the following year, unless otherwise necessary. ​

Here’s a quick summary of the registration and exam scheduling details:

Exam RegistrationESG Investing exam registration is done through CFA UK, with the certificate currently available in the UK and at a number of international test centres.Upon registration, candidates will receive an email confirmation providing scheduling instructions, a unique username and password.Note that candidates can only view exam availability after registration.
Exam SchedulingAfter registration and payment, candidates will need to wait for 2 working days before they are permitted to schedule an exam.To do so, they need to login to Pearson VUE’s website to select a date, time, and location to take the ESG Investing exam.Candidates can sit for exam on most working days in one of 52 locations across the UK or selected centres worldwide.
​Exam ​Registration ExpiryCandidates have 1 year from initial exam registration to sit for the exam.Otherwise, the registration will expire after 1 year with no refunds given. Re-registering will cost the same exam fee each time.
Number of Exam AttemptsCandidates are not allowed to take the ESG exam more than 4 times in any 4 month test window.No further attempts are allowed once a candidate achieves a passing score.For resits, candidates need to wait 3 working days after the exam date to re-register for the exam.

What Are the Requirements for Certificate In ESG Investing?

CFA ESG Certificate: Our Easy Guide 4

While a solid grounding in the investment process is strongly recommended (via formal qualification or experience), there are no formal entry criteria for candidates.

We think it is great that CFA UK has made this course so approachable to all, because this COVID-19 pandemic experience we are all going through now is just going to bring ESG issues to the forefront in investing.

​Candidates who successfully pass the ESG exam can claim a digital badge and earn the CFA UK Certificate in ESG Investing.


Benefits of the Certificate in ESG Investing

CFA ESG Certificate: Our Easy Guide 5

Having the Certificate in ESG Investing could be a key differentiator in the financial services sector, especially if you’re job hunting during this COVID-19 pandemic.

Given the low time and money investment, it does represent good value for money given the unique and practical qualification you would attain.

By completing and earning the Certificate in ESG Investing, you can expect to:

  • Expand your ESG knowledge and stay ahead in your field
  • Improve your career prospects and differentiate yourself from other job candidates
  • Develop the skills and competencies to fulfil both your fiduciary responsibilities and your firm’s responsible investment mandates
  • Gain a prestigious qualification (and digital badge) from CFA UK, recognized by leading firms
  • Gain the Diploma in Investment Management (IMD) for existing IMC holders (no further exams needed), but this route is only valid until Dec 2021 before it transitions to CFA Institute.
  • ​Pave your way for further finance designation such as CFAFRMIMC or CAIA as you further specialize.

ESG Investing vs. Sustainability & Climate Risk (SCR) Certificates: Which Is Right for You?

CFA ESG Certificate: Our Easy Guide 6

In short, while both qualifications focus on sustainable investing, there are some slight differences in focus about them:

  • Certificate in ESG Investing has a slightly broader focus on ESG factors, and how the investment industry can adapt to that change in investor preferences. It also contains covers key concepts relating to climate change (including climate mitigation, and adaptation and resilience) and a range of climate change initiatives, as well as featuring more extensive study of the opportunities arising from the circular economy, green products, and clean and technological innovation.
  • On the other hand, Sustainability & Climate Risk (SCR) certificate mainly focuses on educating risk professionals on how to manage the main environmental risk (arguably just the “E” part of ESG), i.e. climate change.

Both SCR and ESG Investing Certificate (via remote exam proctoring) are now available globally. CFA UK is actively expanding the reach of its ESG Investing qualification to other countries around the world, so it is probably a matter of time that it is available worldwide as well for in-person exams.

While both are good quality qualifications from reputable organizations, the choice depends on which certificate has more relevance to your preferred career path: investments or risk management.

CFA UK’s Certificate in ESG InvestingGARP’s Sustainability & Climate Risk
Suitable forStudents who are keen on an investment career; orInvestment professionals of all roles (asset management, sales & distribution, wealth management, product development, financial advice, consulting, risk etc), who are looking to understand and integrate ESG issues into the investment processRisk management professionals of all disciplines (finance, supply chain, operations, technology etc) who are keen to learn about sustainability and how to manage climate risk in their industries.Students interested in a risk management career.​
Pre-exam qualificationsNone, although some insights in the investment process is strongly recommended (via formal qualification or experience)​None​
Number of Exams11
​Exam FrequencyAvailable to book throughout the year (except weekends and holidays) for in-person examsAlso available to book for remote proctoring at home globally.Maximum 4 attempts in 4 months​​Specific 2 week windows about 3-4 times a year.
​Exam Format100 multiple-choice and item set questions in 2 hours and 20 minutesOn-site computer-based testing80 multiple-choice questions in 3 hoursOn-site computer-based testing or remotely-proctored testing
Pass RatesBetween 60%-75%​Data not available yet as first SCR exams start on Sep 2020
​Fees and CostsGBP £485 (around US$ 570)​Around US$ 525-650 depending on GARP membership status or presence of other credentials
Study Hours Needed130 hours100-130 hours
​Post Exam RequirementsNone​None, although there are 20 hours of voluntary continuous professional development (CPD) every 2 years

Overall, the Certificate in ESG Investing seems to be a cost efficient means to signal your green finance credentials in this increasingly competitive marketplace.

If you’re in the investment sector, this ESG qualification would be useful to have a solid base level of knowledge about ESG and how to incorporate it into your day-to-day role. If you’re a student keen to start a career in investments, this certification – combined with Investment Management Certificate (IMC) – could give you a great head start with ESG credential as a valuable differentiator.


Is this CFA ESG Certificate something you’d consider taking on to enhance your resume/CV? Let us know in the comments below!

Meanwhile, you may find these related articles in our Beginner’s Guide series of interest:

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61 thoughts on “CFA ESG Certificate: Our Easy Guide”

  1. Hey besides the course material provided by Cfa, is there any reference material especially in terms of mock tests that may help? Q

    Reply
  2. Hi All, I have register for Cfa esg 2020 exam. Going through the material( covered 6 chapters till now), I haven’t come across a quantitative/numerical question yet. However, one of the candidates who appeared for the exam suggested that roughly 25% questions were quantitative. Can someone please give an example/ share topics of such questions

    Reply
  3. Hi Sophie,

    Good Evening. I am a Reinsurance Underwriter and considering doing a certification on ESG. I am based in Dubai and I had 2 questions which were
    – A confusion prevails between whether my job as an Underwriter would benefit from an ESG vs SCR qualification.
    – Whether I can do the ESG certification exams in Dubai?

    Reply
    • Hi Rajeev, this is a tough question, although it really depends on your career goals.

      1) As you probably read from the article, ESG is a broader certification focusing on investing with ESG considerations, whilst SCR focuses on climate risk. With your job, and assuming you want to further this career path, initial thoughts may be that SCR is more suitable as you’re analyzing risk on a daily basis. However, what works best is actually looking through the syllabus of both qualification to compare, and more importantly, speaking to your manager and companies to see which is valued better from a career progress perspective.

      2) Yes, Certificate in ESG Investing is available in Dubai via remote testing.

      Reply
    • Unfortunately, for technical reasons, online proctoring option for Certificate in ESG Investing is not available in South Korea (as well as China, Cuba, Iran, Japan, North Korea and Sudan).

      For in-person testing, CFA Institute is forming partnerships with local CFA societies globally to enable local testing to take place. It may be worth contacting CFA Society Korea to check if this partnership is being formed soon, so you can take the exams locally, in-person.

      Reply
  4. Hello,
    1- Is it possible to fully attend the online course and take the exams remotely? I will be connecting from Italy/Switzerland
    2- Is it possible to register and start at any time?
    3- Are we talking about recorded material to be enjoyed at any time or are they live lessons?
    4- Are there any professional requirements to join the course?

    Many thanks

    Best regards
    Luca

    Reply
    • Hi Luca!
      1) Yes you can take the exams remotely from Italy/Switzerland. It is a self-study course with ebooks.
      2) Yes, you can register and start anytime. But you must take your exam within 1 year from registration, and be mindful that their syllabus changes on 1st October annually, so if you register now, do plan to take the exam BEFORE 1st October, or else you’ll be tested on the new syllabus.
      3) It’s just ebooks (included in registration fee). You can also purchase physical copies of the books for an additional cost.
      4) No, there is no requirements.

      Hope this helps 🙂

      Reply
  5. Hi,
    Are there possibilities for sponsorship to do the online course for international applicants, ie east africa.

    Reply
    • Hi Dave, do you mean if there are scholarships for the Certificate in ESG investing? There are currently none as we are aware of. However this certificate can be done and tested remotely in East Africa.

      Reply
  6. I am a lawyer with environmental and governance expertise. Can I obtain a CFA certificate in ESG investing if I do not have finance experience?

    Reply
    • Hi Leslie, although the Certificate in ESG is designed for practitioners working in investment roles who want to learn how to analyze and integrate material ESG factors into their day-to-day roles, it is also suitable for anyone looking to improve their ESG understanding. Finance experience isn’t a pre-requisite.

      Reply
  7. Hello

    Please I live in Nigeria. Can i have access to the ESG Certificate exams here?

    Regards.

    Reply
  8. Hi, I am looking at ESG certificates and need some help around here.
    According to FAQ of OnVUE tests, pearson VUE does not deliver OP exams in South Korea. I am currently based in South Korea. Is there any possibility of me taking the exam? 🙁 Thanks for your help in advace!

    Reply
    • Hi Hyungeun, unfortunately you are right, where Pearson Vue doesn’t provide online proctored exams in South Korea. Nor does CFA UK have a partnership with CFA South Korea Society that would allow you to sit this test in person.

      May be worth reaching out to CFA UK directly to see if they have plans for South Korean partnership soon?

      Reply
  9. Hi, I am looking at Certificate in ESG Investing by CFA UK and the SCR certificate by GARP. The beginner’s guidance mentioned “On the other hand, Sustainability & Climate Risk (SCR) certificate mainly focuses on educating risk professionals on how to manage the main environmental risk (arguably just the “E” part of ESG), i.e. climate change.”

    Questions: 1) Does anyone know if the “S” and “G” components are completely missed in SCR certificate or just take a small weighting? 2) I am based in Australia, can I take the exam here? Also, can anyone please help with the relationship between CFA UK and CFA – as I am new to CFA community? Thanks very much.

    Kind regards

    Reply
    • Hi Tanya, lots of questions! Let me go through them in order:

      1) If you glance through the SCR curriculum, it mainly focuses on the environmental aspect, with the social and governance aspects covered in the ESG framework overview sections, i.e. a small weighting.

      2) Yes you can take the exam in Australia, just check out the latest Pearson VUE test sites locally.

      3) CFA Society of the UK (CFA UK) is a member society of the CFA Institute. CFA Institute governs activities related to the CFA Program exam worldwide, while the CFA society is country-based. So for non-CFA stuff, CFA UK is independent from CFA Institute whereby they have other qualifications such as Certificate in ESG Investing and IMC which are no affiliated to CFA Institute at all.

      Hope this helps!

      Reply
  10. Hi Sophie Thanks for putting this together. Some questions in the CFA UK ESG course… Have you by chance taken the exam? It seems from the study material, there is a lot of detail and procedural stuff. Is the exam a test of one’ rote learning / memorising capability? Has anyone here given the exam and if so what are one’s chances of passing with resign broad strokes, key points and self assessment questions at the end of the chapters + the mock exam paper uploaded on their website? I’m surprised on the lack of conceptual testing and case study based work? I just can not deal with this acronym heavy syllabus. Help!

    Reply
  11. Do you know if there is a more condensed study guide available to buy, aside from the copy of the syllabus that is included in the registration fee? Like the CFA books, it is rather dense and a shortened version would be most helpful.

    Reply
    • Hi James, that’s a good question. Upon passing the CFA UK’s Certificate in ESG Investing, you are eligible to get the relevant ESG digital badge. However, achievement of the qualification does not confer any designatory letters and, therefore, ESG as a designation should not appear after your name in email signatures. Successful candidates should state clearly that they have achieved the CFA UK Level 4 Certificate in ESG Investing (or CFA UK Certificate in ESG Investing). You can share your badge on social media, LinkedIN or embedded in your email signature or digital CV. Hope this helps!

      Reply
  12. Hi, I am an Operations Analyst at a Lender (for Development Finance) in London and I would like to know whether this would be a suitable qualification for me if I want to learn how to implement ESG through my business. The CFA website said it is suitable for Operations and Risk professionals, but I don’t know how true this would be? I work with the Investment Managers but I do not take part in the investment process, I oversee the policies, procedures, quality assurance, etc. Do you think this would work for me? If not, what would you recommend for ESG in financial services business? Many thanks, Selena S

    Reply
    • Hi Selena, I think ESG affects all parts of the finance industry, whether or not you directly or indirectly take part in the investment process. As to what would be useful for your career in Operations, I think it really depends on what you’re currently doing, what your employer values and what career path you would like to target. While CFA UK’s Certificate in ESG is broader in scope, GARP’s SCR qualification is focused on climate change risk specifically (i.e. the “E” part of ESG only). Both are useful for a career in financial services but SCR is more risk-focused whilst ESG is broader. I think it is really worth having a conversation with your employer to see what would add value to your current role, by looking and comparing the syllabus of both qualification before deciding. Hope this helps!

      Reply
  13. Good afternoon Sophie, This was really helpful for me in the run up to my exam last week (passed thankfully). So good to have this information concisely delivered in one place. You mention the IMC and ESG combine to make a diploma but I cannot see any references to that on the CFA UK website. Would you be able to point me in the right direction? Kind regards, Tom

    Reply
    • Hi Renuka, as long as you’re a female (I presume you are!) and meet one of the following CFA enrollment requirement: – have a bachelors degree (or equivalent), OR – be a final year uni student when taking Level 1, but must complete your degree before registering for Level 2, OR – Have a combination of four years (or 48 months) of full-time work experience and/or college/university education on the date of registering for the Level I exam. The work and education experiences cannot be overlapping. Assuming you’re a new L1 candidate (or have not registered), do you have a Bachelor’s degree, or a combination of 4 years of non-overlapping work and education experience? You mentioned you work 2 years in ESG, but what did you do before and after that 2 years of ESG work? I don’t have sufficient info currently to determine if you meet the requirements. Let me know and I’ll help advise.

      Reply
      • I have a Masters degree in Environmental Studies and Resource Management (completed in 2018). Post my masters I have worked for NGOs focused on Rural Development & Women Empowerment, Environmental awareness and advocacy and in corporate sector for ESG (Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance) research. In total I have 4.2 years of work experience.hope that helps you out for guiding me.

        Reply
        • Hi Renuka, yes you definitely meet the enrollment requirements for CFA: you already have a Masters degree (higher than Bachelors) as well as your non-overlapping work experience plus university education exceeds 4 years. Good luck for the scholarship application and CFA exams!

          Reply
  14. Sophie, thank you very much for your answer! and also for the comparison on the side of the to “ESG” Certifications – from Garp and CFA.I more incline now to the one from CFA. I have already the FRM designation and work now as Internal auditor at an Insurance company. Which of the two would you recommend for me? Thanks.

    Reply
  15. Hi, I am interested in the Certificate of ESG Investing and I have 3 questions: 1/ if I good understand from Austria I can only do the online examination from home or office ? (expect to do the exam in year 2021) 2/ the exam can be online done “any time” or are there any slots? 3/ I wanted to wait for the study material an see how study is going and register later. Is it possible or do I need do register for the exam shortly after registration? thank you very much!

    Reply
    • Hi Kathy, to answer your questions: 1) yes you can do the exam from your home or office, with online proctoring. You’ll need to check your system meets the requirement for online proctoring first at https://home.pearsonvue.com/cfauk/onvue 2) There are slots: OnVUE online proctored exams are offered Monday to Saturday, 24 hours a day, subject to availability. 3) Yes, you can register and purchase the study materials first. When you are finished studying, then you need to check your system requirements for online proctoring, before booking a relevant date and time for your online proctored exam. Registration for the ESG course and the booking of exam slot itself are separate. Hope this clarifies!

      Reply
  16. Hi, I’m looking at ESG certificates and apart from the CFA ESG I also found the CESGA which seems interesting. Any idea on the differences/advantages between these certificates? Thank you!

    Reply
    • Hey Vincent, that’s a good question. I think it depends on where you’re based, what is more well known / recognized by employers as well as budget. CESGA seems more comprehensive, Europe-centric and at a higher education level (Diploma, i.e. Level 5 equivalent benchmark by UK NARIC), and therefore more expensive at EUR1,500 for the course/exam. On the other hand, Certificate for ESG is cheaper at GBP470 and a level below Diploma (i.e. 1st year Bachelors equivalent, Level 4 benchmark by UK NARIC). I think it largely depends on which qualification is better appreciated by your employer and cost. I hope this helps. What do you do for a job currently and where are you based? What certification are you leaning towards at the moment?

      Reply
      • Thank you Sophie. I’m in portfolio management based in Singapore and I’m already CFA charterholder. I was leaning more towards the CESGA but considering the large difference in cost I may pursue the CFA one.

        Reply
        • Sounds like a good plan Vincent – let us know how it goes and would be good to hear your personal feedback about Certificate in ESG Investing once you’ve completed the course – just shoot us an email 🙂

          Reply
          • is there any website or details to show :ESGA seems more comprehensive, (Diploma, i.e. Level 5 equivalent benchmark by UK NARIC i tried looking for similar details(level 5) on effas website but not be shown anywhere

          • Hi Kal, my comment was based on CESGA being advertised as Diploma level, but this is not officially compared by UK NARIC per se. However, Certificate in ESG Investing by CFA UK is officially rated as Level 4 under UK NARIC (1st year Bachelor’s equivalent), and under that same scale Level 5 is a ‘Diploma equivalent’, hence that broad reference that CESGA is probably equivalent to Level 5 if officially rated by UK NARIC. Hope this clarifies.

          • agreed thanks Sophie, i have know both candidates who too CFA ESG and EFFAS honestly there is mor ebent forEFFAS compared to CFA one’s qualitiy wise esp, i am bent on EFFAS too spoke to several candidates int his space quite +ve actuallly

      • Hi Sophie,

        Any chance you have access to any CESGA mock exams? It would be really helpful if I could have an idea of the type of questions presented in the exam.

        Thanks!

        Reply

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