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In February, Professor Judith Walls, PhD, was appointed as Chair for Sustainability Management taking over from long-time professor and co-founder of the Institute for Economy and the Environment (IWÖ-HSG), Prof. Dr. Thomas Dyllick. She, along with Prof. Dr. Rolf Wüstenhagen, will serve as the director of IWÖ-HSG.
“The debate about palm oil is misinformed.”
Walls’s research looks at the intersection of business and environmental sustainability and focuses on issues such as how behavioural characteristics of boards and managers affect firms’ social and environmental outcomes in the context of societal pressures. Much of Walls’s work takes a corporate governance perspective of environmental and the social performance of companies. “My research finds that CEOs with an MBA are more likely to see an opportunity in greening their organisations when facing pressure from shareholders than CEOs with a legal background, who tend to focus on the risk behind such decisions.”
Her research also dives into the environmental governance of industries that directly affect land use such as agriculture, mining and even trophy hunting. One recent topic that has received much attention, particularly on Social Media, has to do with palm oil and the sustainability of palm oil.
“Much of the debate around palm oil is misinformed. First off, palm oil is an efficient crop. Palm oil plantations produce 4 to 10 times more oil per hectare than other oil crops like coconut, rapeseed, or soybean… so the issue isn’t simply black and white. If we replace palm oil with other oils, we actually make things worse. The key is to grow palm oil in a sustainable way.” Before coming to St.Gallen, Walls was in Singapore and served as an Assistant Professor of Strategy Management and Organisation at Nanyang Technological University’s Business School. Born in the Netherlands, Walls is truly a global citizen. She speaks five languages and has lived in Asia, Australia, Europe, Africa, Canada and the USA.