CFA ESG, GARP SCR, CESGA, or SASB FSA: Which is the best ESG certification?

CFA ESG, GARP SCR, CESGA, or SASB FSA: Which is the best ESG certification?

An ESG certification is a qualification that validates a professional’s knowledge of Environmental, Social, and Governance factors. The certification comes in different forms covering different issues in responsible investing, sustainability, and ESG compliance.

ESG investing, despite being an emerging field, is widely accepted by corporations and agencies like the UN PRI. Some corporations cannot continue with their investment operations if they lack ESG data and reports. Preparing such annual reports will definitely require some ESG skill set. The cruciality of ESG investing in the modern world is intricating to the most basic financial operations like auditing and accounting. 

So, it’s time to get an ESG certification and remain relevant. But where do you start?

Which is the Best ESG Certification?

There’s a whole list of ESG certifications to wade through. While the process may be easy through the lenses of popularism, there’s always a gray area when a few of them appear similar. Case in point, you may find it challenging to choose one of these courses – CFA ESG, GARP SCR, CESGA, or SASB FSA. 

While there are no given criteria for choosing one over the others, your situation and interest could be a good starting point. It’s worth noting that these courses are not exactly easy and hence would require the right reason for pursuing them. We’re talking about getting an excuse that’s strong enough to propel you even when things get dry and hard. Think of having a personal passion or thirst for this knowledge or a felt need.

In this article, we’ll feature an overview of each course, letting you know how different each is from the remaining three and other handy factors. In that way, your selection process would become easier and fulfilling.

Let’s go!

The CFA ESG at a glance

This course was initially owned and awarded by the CFA Society UK before its ownership was transferred to the CFA Institute. The CFA ESG certificate majorly delves into environmental, social, and governance factors that shape responsible investment. A learner will expand their skill set in valuation and analysis, which are necessary in the decision-making process of investments. 

This is gradually becoming essential for professionals in the investment industry as it covers a broad spectrum of key investment issues. The certification demonstrates a holder’s role in prioritizing social responsibility, ethical practices, and sustainability. 

Learning objectives

The CFA ESG is a 4-level type of curriculum whose navigation needs a good amount of dedication. As it is mostly taken out by professionals who’ve been in the investment field previously, some of the learners come from non-related fields. If you’re in the latter group, your study devotion is advisably 100 to 130 hours. As most of these concepts are not familiar to the layman, repetitive study is very necessary.

So, here’s what the CFA ESG instills in a learner

  • It shapes a learner’s thought process such that they gain different approaches toward environmental, social, and governance issues and responsible investment.
  • Systemic relationships and approaches to environmental, social, and governance analysis at different sectors and company levels.
  • ESG integrated portfolio construction and management.

Click here to find out more about the topic areas.

Pricing and timeframe

Learning materials are available online for $795, an amount which includes the exam fee. The course takes 6 months before you become a qualified CFA ESG trainee. Before sitting the exam, the administration recommends at least 100 hours of revision time. 

The course is growing in popularity across the world. However, it’s not yet available to the whole world. So, establish its availability in your country before application.

Enrollment criteria

CFA Institute doesn’t place any blockades for anyone willing to partake in the CFA ESG. However, it recommends a prior knowledge of the investment processes. That means you could be a professional in finance advice, risk management, consulting, sales and distribution, wealth management, product development, etc.


The exam scheduling is open for up to 6 months after registration. You’ll face 100 multiple-choice questions in 140 minutes. The exam is conducted both online and in-person and is available all year round.

GARP SCR Certificate

The Sustainability and Climate Risk Certification takes a major interest in training professionals on climate risk management. This is where learners are equipped with the prerequisite knowledge of handling climate change and sustainability issues. The certification cuts across fields like fintech, banking, fashion, hospitality, et cetera.

Learning objectives

The GARP SCR certificate is designed to open doors to a community of professionals driving prospective climate risk management. Learners who complete the certification are imparted with the following:

  • Knowledge of strategies employed in the mitigation of climate risk
  • Mastery of how to combat physical and transition risks 
  • A real-world glimpse of how climate change affects the economy
  • Attain leadership skills in sustainable investments and developing meaningful change

Exam fees and retakes

New members are required to pay $750 for learning materials and the exam. Unlike the CFA ESG, the GARP SCR exam registration is open at specific times of the year. However, it has a lower pass mark, 51%, compared to CFA ESG’s 60-70%.

Candidates who fail the exam can take advantage of a lower-price window. The retake registration costs $350 and is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Otherwise, retakes will be charged the same exam fees as the rest, depending on a candidate’s membership.

Exam scheduling

Applicants can schedule their exam 48 hours before the paper. This is unlike the CFA ESG, which requires 72 hours prior. The exam is conducted in person, so check out for your nearest Pearson VUE test center.

Learn more about the GARP SCR certification.

CESGA Certificate

Compared to its peers, this course is still very young and unrecognized. The EFFAS Certified ESG Analyst is a good starting point if you’re looking to attach a designation suffix to your name. Being a young certification, you can invest in it now and save yourself the scramble later. However, if it remains in its current state for too long, its need in the market might dwindle. 

The CESGA syllabus

The CESGA program is broken down into 10 modules, 8 of which are theoretical. One of the remaining two covers case studies, implementing the concepts taught in the 8 previous modules, while the 10th module contains complimentary content, specifically targeting the APAC region. The comprehensive program features topics like Regulatory environment, ESG factors, ESG Integration in Research and Valuation, Investment decision process, and Responsible investment across asset classes, among others.

The 9th module’s case study heavily dwells on ESG integration in the investment decision-making process. The last module focuses on ESG regional developments in North and Latin America and the Asia Pacific regions.

Learning objectives

  • By the end of the modules, learners are able to understand the impacts of ESG on risk and returns
  • How to apply various investment approaches and strategies
  • Identifying and understanding the drivers of the market, which is important for ESG integration
  • ESG integration viz-a-viz valuation models
  • Responsible investing

Course relevance

CESGA mainly targets portfolio managers and financial analysts. The knowledge passed on through this program will equip the two groups of people with knowledge of how to integrate ESG data in crucial decision-making processes like capital allocation. The course’s relevance extends to any investment professionals passionate about ESG investing. From auditors to investor relations, consultants, and sustainability officers.

Enrollment criteria and CESGA exams

This course is administered by the EFFAS National Member Society (NMS). Applicants from countries without an NMS are required to visit the organization’s academy website to start their registration.

Prior knowledge of ESG is not a must. However, learners with this knowledge will find it easier than those who don’t.

The exam contains two sections: one with 20 multiple-choice questions and the other section with case study questions. The exam has a total of 120 examination points, requiring learners to pass at least 50% of them. A learner gets to spend a total of $1,710, which includes the learning materials’ cost and exam fee.

Here’s more info about this certification.

SASB FSA Certificate

This is simply a program designed to provide professionals with the knowledge of connections between financial performance and sustainability. The certification is categorized into two exams. Level 1 exams declare a learner an “FSA Level II Candidate.” Upon passing the Level 2 exams, a candidate is rendered an “FSA Credential Holder.”

Learning objectives

  • Understand analysis methodologies. You’ll also understand the context and principles
  • Get high-end analysis skills required for understanding a company’s sustainability performance. The course also sharpens your ability to remember core principles and concepts

Exam Fees

Level 1 exams require $450 from non-members and $400 from alliance members. Level 2 is priced at $650 for non-members and $500 for alliance members. The prices cover study materials and exam fees.

Click here to learn how to register for SASB FSA exams.

As we bring the ship to the shore, we hope that this guide has shortened your decision-making process. Now, it’s time to assess your strengths and determine which course you want to start with. Check out the ESG prep materials available at AnalystPrep to kick off your studies.

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