Faith in Nature – The First Company in the World to Appoint ‘Nature’ as a Director

“What would nature do?” is the question Simeon Rose creative director of Faith in Nature asks himself when faced with a challenge.

Inspired by this question and the global indigenous-led campaign to give rivers legal rights (in recent years, many rivers from New Zealand’s Whanganui to the United States’ Klamath River have been given personhood and in 2018, Colombia’s Supreme Court granted the Amazon legal rights), Rose started investigating how he could give nature a seat at the board table.

One of the people he explored this thinking with was Paul Powlesland from the legal NGO Lawyers for Nature. Powlesland believes “the rights of nature will be to the 21st century what human rights were to the 20th”. Some creative, but rigorous, legal thinking and constitution crafting later, Edinburgh-based beauty company Faith in Nature has become the first company in the world to appoint a director to represent nature (defined as the “natural world and all non-human species that inhabit it”).

The Nature Guardian director attends board meetings and, where a matter is deemed by the board to be a “Nature Reserved Matter”, may circulate materials with the meeting agenda to be considered by the board. If the board ultimately votes on a Nature Reserved Matter in a way that is inconsistent with the vote of the Nature Guardian, the board must provide “balanced and comprehensive reasons for such decision” to ensure transparency.

The first person to hold the position is Brontie Maria Ansell senior lecturer in law in Essex Law School and director of Lawyers for Nature (on her twitter handle she describes one of her current roles as “non-human representation”!).

Ansell told the Guardian her role is similar to a guardian acting on behalf of a child in a court of law. She believes Faith In Nature is serious about the decision and is open to making significant changes to the way it operates to accommodate it. “We needed a really strong methodology for holding this board to account so that it didn’t just become #greenwashing. And that’s through public accountability and peer pressure.”

I find this a fascinating development, and applaud Faith in Nature for it. (I also appreciate the fact that they have made all their legal documents available to any other board which is interested in following suit.) It’s a challenge to any of us involved as non-executive directors on boards to think much more deeply about the voices that should and could be heard at the board table. Roman Krznaric’s brilliant book The Good Ancestor (if you haven’t read it yet do seek it out, it changed the way I saw the world) has me thinking very hard about how future generations are best represented in decision-making.

My thanks to Emma Lawrence of Irish Law firm Mason Hayes & Curran LLP bringing this to my attention.

This is the fourteenth in a year-long series of weekly blogs by Jean Callanan telling stories of businesses and brands that are doing inspiring and innovative things in addressing #climatechange and creating a better world. Check out more here.