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A natural progression

30 September, 2022

Increasingly, companies are adapting their structures to mitigate climate change and enshrine the rights of the natural world. For example, Patagonia’s founder recently gave the company away to a charitable trust focused on fighting climate change. Now, beauty brand Faith in Nature has given Nature itself a voice in business strategy, rewriting their constitution to require the appointment of a ‘Nature Guardian’. The company makes a point of capitalising the N in Nature to underscore the respect it deserves. 

Doing so meant creating a new governance system, which allows a non-human entity (Nature) to be represented on the board by a non-executive director. Brontie Ansell, a legal academic and director of Lawyers for Nature, is the first to take on the ‘proxy role’. She is legally bound to speak in Nature’s best interests, just as a responsible adult is required to speak in a child’s best interests in a court of law. The company has also committed to be transparent about its board decisions – even those that go against the Nature Guardian’s vote – and to publish its reasons for making them. This accountability is key and gives us confidence that this shift is not just another example of greenwashing. 

Non-executive directors don’t get much outside attention (or scrutiny) when thinking about how a business operates. Often, these roles are filled by individuals who are very proficient from a finance perspective – for example, many have a background in accountancy. However, such individuals may be less knowledgeable about other areas of key importance, such as climate change.  

The most effective boards are made up of individuals with a diversity of backgrounds and experience. Faith in Nature may be the first company to make Nature itself a director, but we hope they aren’t the last. So, think about it – is your business able to follow this example? If yes, check out this page, which provides information on how to do so, and how to register your interest so that a member of either Lawyers For Nature or Earth Law Center can help you get started. Hopefully in future, Nature’s rights will be represented, and respected, in every company.  

By Miriam Shovel

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