Why we’ve made nature a director of our board
Simeon Rose, creative director at beauty product brand Faith In Nature, outlines why the business has decided to place nature into the very heart of its decision-making process.
The conversation about business’s responsibility to the environment is gathering momentum. With climate change taking hold, and biodiversity in dramatic decline, there is now a clear consensus that companies need to do more to limit their impact on the planet – and an understanding that this is not just the right thing to do but that it also makes business sense.
Patagonia’s recent decision to donate all future profits to combat climate change sets a great example. But it’s one that’s unlikely to be followed by many other companies. At Faith In Nature, we’ve always asked ourselves hard questions about the impact we have on the environment.
Fifty years ago, when Rivka Rose set up the business in her kitchen, she pioneered the use of organic and natural products, and the idea that living in harmony with nature was good for you and good for the planet. Now that idea has evolved. There are lots of ‘green’ and ‘eco’ businesses – some whose commitment goes further below the surface than others.
In keeping with Rivka’s pioneering spirit, we wanted to do something that was really cutting edge, and that updated the idea of ethical business for the new millenium. This is what led us to make nature a director on our board. This unprecedented move will give nature an active voice and vote in our decision making and ensure that its best interests are represented at all times.
Environmental personhood – the idea of giving a non-human entity legal status and protections – is a relatively new concept but one that is increasingly being used to preserve and protect the natural world from the impacts of human activity. It’s been used to safeguard rivers, rainforests and other natural habitats but as yet, has remained in the realm of environmental activism.
We believe giving legal rights to nature has serious potential for the business world too. Corporations have historically seen the natural world as a resource to exploit, rather than a living, breathing entity they have a duty to listen to and protect. In fact, nature isn’t a finite resource and our long-term business success relies on protecting the planet.
Globally, businesses have a huge impact on the environment, and if we are to prevent runaway climate change and stop the destruction of nature, they must play their part. Giving nature rights in the same way that human beings have them is a way of reimagining the relationship between business and nature and ensuring profit doesn’t trump the planet.
So, what does this look like in practice? As the UK’s largest manufacturer of natural products, the challenge for us to be as sustainable as possible is a big one. We’ve put in place lots of policies to help us do this in various areas of our operations -from using only recyclable plastic to encouraging customers to refill instead of purchasing new bottles. But we’re also aware that really having a nature-first approach requires bigger, more fundamental change.
Making nature a board director gives it a seat at the table. Through a proxy representative, nature will now have a voice and a vote on all company-wide decisions, the same as every other director. The idea is that this may lead us to reconsider important parts of how we do business, from packaging to sourcing and beyond.
Environmental law experts, Lawyers for Nature will act as the first representative for nature on our board (we worked with them and the Earth Law Center to make this happen), but ultimately, nature can be represented by any impartial individual or group with a deep understanding of and ability to advocate for the interests of nature.
We believe that in many cases, what’s best for nature, will be what’s best for the company. But by appointing a nature director we will be required to consider all our decisions through a nature lens and be open to what this means for our operations.
Giving nature a space on the board will make us ask difficult questions and confront our responsibility to the environment head-on. It’s a new way of doing business, but one that we think could have huge pay-offs from companies, communities and the planet.
We’re excited about what this means for us, but we don’t want the only ones to do this, and nor do we think this should be confined to stereotypically ‘eco-friendly’ businesses. It’s a tangible way of putting CSR narratives to the test, for all companies, no matter their shape or size. For this reason, we’ve open-sourced all the legal work we conducted to make this happen, so that other companies can do it too. We hope they will!
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FIRST NATIONS PEOPLE BEEN DOING THIS FOREVER. IT’S NOT NEW, JUST FORGOTTEN.
HERE’S A STORY TELLS IT ONE WAY