Giving Nature A Voice

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Faith In Nature has become the world’s first company to officially appoint Nature to its Board of Directors. The precedent-setting move gives Nature a vote on key business decisions with Essex Law School academic and Co-Founder of Lawyers for Nature Brontie Ansell joining the Board as the first representative for Nature.

In a fundamental change to their corporate governance structure and in a first for the business world, the decision from the natural hair care and soap company gives the natural world a voice and a vote on the future of the business.

The company has formally amended its constitution, with the result that Nature is now represented on the Board by an individual who is legally bound to speak on behalf of the natural world. The nominated proxy will speak and vote on behalf of Nature, much as a guardian acts on behalf of a child in the courts of law.

This decision extends a growing legal precedent around environmental personhood – the attribution of legal rights to non-human entities – and presents a fresh opportunity for businesses wanting to reduce their environmental impact.

Simeon Rose, Faith In Nature’s Creative Director and driver of the initiative, said: “We’re delighted to be the first to do this but we don’t want to be the last. Our hope is that other businesses who take their responsibility to the natural world seriously will follow suit – and we’re really happy to share details of how and why we did this. We’ve always wanted Nature to be at the heart of what we do and this felt like this is the next serious step we could take to make that a reality. This is much more than spin: by changing our governance structure we are making sure we’re legally accountable and that what’s good for Nature informs our strategy.”

Rose’s vision has been realised by lawyers that helped pioneer the concept of environmental personhood, Paul Powlesland and Brontie from Lawyers for Nature, and Grant Wilson from Earth Law Centre. Earlier this year, the Earth Law Centre assisted with the high profile legal case to attribute legal rights to Nature in Panama. The legal process with Faith In Nature also received significant support and expertise from a pro bono team of corporate experts at international law firm Shearman & Sterling LLP.

In what will be a rotating position, Brontie will be the first board representative for Nature. Brontie is Director and Co-Founder of Lawyers for Nature and is also a Senior Lecturer in Essex Law School at the University of Essex.

Brontie said: “This will hopefully spark a big change in how the business world perceives and acts on its responsibility to the natural world. For too long Nature has been seen purely as an expendable resource: this kind of thinking has led us to the brink of ecological collapse. It can and must change.”

Grant Wilson at the Earth Law Centre, added: “The movement for the Rights of Nature is picking up momentum across the world, but businesses have been slow to recognise that they are a crucial part of this story. Making Nature a Director is a tangible step that businesses can take to ensure that their operations take into account the rights and needs of the natural world.”

The board representative will work in concert with a committee of environmental experts, to make Nature’s case on all major board decisions. Faith In Nature has decided to open-source the legal process to allow other companies to follow its lead.


This story was first published on the University of Essex’s news webpages and is reproduced on the ELR Blog with permission and thanks.

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