A beauty company has appointed a director to represent nature on its board, giving the natural world a say in its business strategy.
Faith In Nature, which sells soaps and hair care products, as well as household cleaners and dog shampoos, claims to be the first company in the world to give nature a formal vote on business decisions that could affect it.
The Edinburgh-based company’s decision draws on a growing global movement to assign legal rights to nature, though it has had little force in the UK so far.
Simeon Rose, creative director of Faith In Nature, said he hopes other companies that take their responsibilities to the natural world seriously will follow suit.
“We are really happy to share the details on how and why we did it,” said Rose. We always wanted nature to be at the center of what we do, and this seemed like the next serious step we could have taken to make it a reality. “
Working with attorneys at Lawyers for Nature and the United States-based Earth Law Center, as well as a pro bono team of business experts at the international law firm Shearman & Sterling LLP, the company updated its business records during the estate to state that, for the benefit of shareholders, it would do its best “to have a positive impact on nature as a whole” and “to minimize the prospect of any harmful impact of its business operations on nature.”
A new non-executive director will join the company’s next board meeting later this month to speak on behalf of the natural world. The first person to hold the position is Brontie Ansell, a law professor at Essex Law School and director of Lawyers for Nature, who told the Guardian that her role would be similar to that of a guardian acting on behalf of a child. in a court of law.
Ansell believes Faith In Nature takes the decision seriously and is willing to make significant changes to the way it works to accommodate it. “We needed a really strong methodology to take this advice into account so it didn’t just become greenwashing. And this through public accountability and peer pressure “.
The compensation of the nature guardian is separated from the main board so that it can remain independent and the company is committed to being transparent on board decisions – even contrary to the statements made by the natural guardian – and to publish its reasons for them.
Exactly which business decisions will require nature’s input is a matter that will be refined as they go along.
Ansell is particularly pleased that the company has agreed to pay experts to serve on a special committee, which will advise it on the core of key issues such as biodiversity, pollution, plastics, energy or water management.
“It is not up to me to have all the answers. I think my role is to take complex information and translate it into something the board can actually do [take] action [on]Ansell said.
He is also considering asking the council to hold some of his meetings in natural settings such as a forest “to force them to make decisions about things that affect nature, in nature itself.”
“I don’t think this will save the world overnight, but it’s really important to immerse companies in the place where their decisions are taking effect.”
Simon Tilling, a partner at Steptoe & Johnson UK law firm who is not involved in the move, said he is in line with a growing trend for companies to define a specific business purpose beyond that in the Companies Act 2006.
He said, “The purpose here – to have a positive impact on nature and minimize the harmful impacts of business operations on nature – has many parallels to that proposed by other initiatives, such as the Better Business Act campaign.”
Last week, billionaire owner of the Patagonia outdoor brand, Yvon Chouinard, announced that he would divest the entire company to combat the Earth’s climate devastation.
But Tilling warned that the guardian of nature would have the same legal responsibilities as any other director under the Companies Act 2006, including a duty to promote the success of the company for the benefit of its members as a whole.
“While there has been a tendency in recent years to move away from a rigid interpretation that this means that absolute shareholder primacy returns to include greater discretion for directors, there is still a lot of debate in the legal profession about how much freedom have the administrators “.