Cornell University

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John Tobin-de la Puente Joins as Joint Professor of Practice

John Tobin-de la Puente

by Lisa Jervey Lennox

CIPA Assistant Director for External Relations

The Cornell Institute for Public Affairs (CIPA), in conjunction with the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management (Dyson) in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, has hired John Tobin-de la Puente as a Professor of Practice.  Tobin becomes the first professor of practice in the College of Human Ecology, where CIPA is housed, and the first jointly appointed faculty member between CIPA and Dyson. 

While on sabbatical from his position as managing director and global head of sustainability at Credit Suisse last fall, Tobin served as a visiting scholar at Cornell.  CIPA and Dyson tapped Tobin for this new professor of practice position because of his expertise in corporate sustainability practices, conservation finance, and impact investing. His teaching responsibilities for CIPA will support the program’s two-year professional Master in Public Administration (MPA) degree and a graduate certificate program in Environmental Finance and Impact Investing (EFII).  His teaching responsibilities for Dyson will support undergraduate and professional masters courses related to impact investing and corporate sustainability.

Corporate sustainability is a new paradigm for the business world that calls for organizations to pursue profitability while at the same time managing their environmental and social impacts responsibly.  

“Sustainability is one of Human Ecology's core research and teaching themes, and has long been a cross-cutting interest of CIPA faculty, staff, and students,” says CIPA Executive Director Thomas O’Toole.  “This robust interest is also evident in the development of our EFII Fellows Program, as well as in our many Public Service Exchange and Capstone projects that have had a sustainability focus. The addition of Tobin as a CIPA Professor of Practice, and, indeed, the first Professor of Practice hired in the college, sends a strong message regarding the commitment that CIPA is making to engaging in world-class research, teaching, and service in this space.”  

Christopher Barrett, deputy dean of Cornell’s new College of Business, is enthusiastic about the professional experience that Tobin brings to Cornell. “As a well-trained ecologist and lawyer who has worked at the highest corporate executive levels globally on sustainability issues, John offers a rare set of skills and experience. This is a fabulous opportunity for our students and for the research and public engagement community at Cornell,” he says.  

Barrett believes Dyson’s position as a global leader in sustainability issues was instrumental in their efforts to recruit Tobin.  “With the addition of John to our faculty,” Barrett says, “we are poised to play an ever-more prominent role moving forward.”

Prior to working in the area of corporate sustainability, Tobin practiced law at Credit Suisse, where he oversaw legal aspects of the bank’s emerging markets business, with a focus on Latin America. He joined Credit Suisse from Clifford Chance in New York, where he was a corporate attorney focusing on cross-border financial transactions. Prior to that, he worked as a corporate attorney at Davis Polk & Wardwell in New York.

Making the transition to academia is not a new idea to Tobin.  “I have been thinking for quite some time about continuing my work in the areas of corporate sustainability, conservation finance, and impact investing at an academic institution,” he explains.  “I’m excited at the prospect of training the leaders of the future in these areas, and there is no institution where I would rather be doing this now than Cornell. Given the depth of knowledge and experience here, the opportunities for collaboration are tremendous.”

Tobin holds a PhD in evolutionary biology from Harvard University as well as a JD from Harvard Law School. He obtained his BS in biology from the University of California at Los Angeles. Among other appointments, he is a member of the board of directors of Forest Trends and a member of the Commission on Environment and Energy of the International Chamber of Commerce.