Over recent weeks, we’ve seen some big leaps in the role of businesses stepping up and taking more responsibility for the environment and climate change.
The ‘climate clock’ continues to tick and the impact of biodiversity loss and climate-related impacts are increasing all the time.
We’ve seen some challenger brands increasing desire to do more, and to think differently about governance and stakeholders; considering new ways to structure businesses in a way that Nature is a key stakeholder and component. Doing this not only because they think businesses have a responsibility to be a force for good, but also because they know it makes good business sense too.
Earth as a shareholder
It was hard to miss the news around Patagonia’s founder, Yvon Chouinard restructuring the company and creating a trust and non-profit organisation to ensure all future profits from the Patagonia (around $100 million a year) will now go directly to causes which tackle climate change and protect undeveloped land around the world.
In an open letter on their website, “Earth is now our only shareholder”, Chouninard explains how they’ve created a new construct for their business that’s right for both Nature and for Patagonia.
He explains their decisions and approach – saying instead of “going public”, they’re “going purpose”. Instead of extracting value from nature and transforming it into wealth for investors, they’re using the wealth and profit created through their brand to protect the source of wealth for all: Nature.
“If we have any hope of a thriving planet – much less a thriving business – 50 years from now, it is going to take all of us doing what we can with the resources we have,” …. This is another way we’ve found to do our part.”
– Yvon Chouinard, Founder Patagonia
Appointing Nature as a Director
We’ve also seen UK beauty brand Faith in Nature, taking the bold step to make Nature a director on their board. They’ve recognised the importance of hearing Nature’s voice as an active board vote, believing that it’s vital for their brand and success to ensure Nature’s best interests are represented throughout their business and decision making.
Faith in Nature have worked hard to make sure that this is a robust position, and not just a marketing gimmick. They’ve worked with Lawyers for Nature and the Earth Law Center to formalise this within their company’s governance structure.
Environmental personhood is a relatively new legal concept which assigns environmental entities the status of a person – so that a person can act on their behalf to protect it. In Faith in Nature’s case they have appointed Brontie Ansell, Co-founder of Lawyers for Nature, to help and advice on this new approach. To ensure Nature is robustly represented – her role is supported by a special advisory committee which will advise on key issues such as biodiversity, pollution, plastics, energy or water management – ensuring Natures’ voice and best interests are represented.
Through appointing Nature as a Director of Faith in Nature, they will now be required to consider all their decisions through the lens of nature and to be open to what this then means about how they do business. They’ve committed to sharing their decisions and being transparent about the impact Nature’s vote and seat has on their strategy.
It’s a first for a brand to do this and their hope is the many other brands will follow suit. They’re actively sharing how they’ve achieved this, making their legal work open sourced for others to use.
Businesses have a responsibility to act
The signal both these examples give is to highlight that nature is not infinite and that businesses have a responsibility to respect, acknowledge and give more back to nature, than what they take. It will be interesting to see how these new company structures evolve and which brands will be next to follow suit.