We teach the skills MBAs need to tackle sustainability issues. | University of St.Gallen MBA

We teach the skills MBAs need to tackle sustainability issues.

3 Jul 2022

Judit Walls

An interview with Prof. Judith Walls, Elective Course Lecturer

A mini-blog series, by Daniel Cade

Sustainability is trending now. And rightly so. We’re heading towards climate change on a level that poses a fundamental threat to the places we live, the species we coexist with, and our very livelihoods. Speaking to Judith, I’m reminded of how close we are to the abyss but also of the great progress we’ve made in a relatively short space of time.

“I always start off by underlining the sense of urgency we are faced with,” Judith explained. “Some people still don’t realise how little time we have left to bend this curve – how severe the biodiversity problem is. We have 7.5 years to cut our global emissions in half. It’s a slap in the face for many , but my mission is not to create fear and helplessness. Instead, I focus on pinpointing solutions. We have them. We just need to dedicate ourselves to implementing them.”

I asked if and how MBA students could help. “Absolutely. As change agents in their companies,” came Judith’s response. “MBA students are dynamic, critical thinkers. They will push back when I’ve said something that doesn’t quite resonate. But when inspired, their persistence, energy, and will can move mountains!”

Judith teaches an elective called Corporate Sustainability Strategy. The course follows a precise framework: relaying the urgency of the situation, exploring proven solutions, and targeting ‘material’ impacts. Using a real-life case study as a backdrop, students are encouraged to develop their critical, and systems, thinking. “It’s not black and white,” Judith told me. “We teach the skills that MBAs will need to embrace complexity and nuance, to understand and speak confidently on sustainability issues.”

Judith grew up on a farm until the age of 10. I suspect that explains her sensitivity towards nature and calm personality, which, combined with her teaching approach and deep understanding of corporate governance – considering the role of boards, CEOs, and shareholders – is a recipe to inspire even the most uncertain among us!