Eco-beauty company ‘names nature’ on its board of directors

A beauty company has appointed a director to represent nature on its board, giving the natural world a legal voice in its business strategy.

Faith In Nature, which sells soaps and hair care products as well as household cleaning products and dog shampoo, says it is the first company in the world to give nature a formal vote on corporate decisions that could affect her.

The Edinburgh-based company’s move taps into a growing global movement to allocate legal rights to nature, though it has had little traction in the UK to date.

Simeon Rose, creative director of Faith In Nature, said he hoped other companies that take their responsibility to the natural world seriously would do the same.

“We’re excited to share the details of how and why we did this,” said Rose. We’ve always wanted nature to be at the heart of what we do, and this felt like the next serious step we could take to make it happen.”

Working with US-based attorneys from Lawyers for Nature and the Earth Law Center, as well as a free team of corporate experts from the international law firm Shearman & Sterling LLP, the company updated its corporate filings over the summer to say that, in addition as beneficial shareholders, it would do everything possible to “have a positive impact on nature as a whole” and “to minimize the possibility 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, Senior Lecturer in Law at Essex Law School and Director of Lawyers for Nature, who told The Guardian her role would be similar to that of a guardian acting on behalf of a child in a court of law.

Ansell believes that 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 to hold this board accountable so it didn’t become greenwashed. And that’s through public accountability and peer pressure.”

The nature keeper’s salary is capped by the parent board so they can remain independent, and the company has committed to being transparent about its board’s decisions, including those that go against statements made by the nature keeper. nature, and to publish their reasons for taking them.

Precisely which corporate decisions will require input from nature is a matter that will be refined as they go along.

Ansell is particularly pleased that the company has agreed to pay experts to sit on a special committee, which will advise it on the details of key issues such as biodiversity, pollution, plastics, energy and water management.

“It is not my place to have all the answers. I think my role is to take complex information and translate it into something that the board can really [take] action [on]Ansell said.

It is even considering asking the board to hold some of its meetings in natural settings like a forest “to force them to make decisions about things that affect nature, in nature itself.”

“I don’t think this is going to save the world overnight, but immersing companies in the place where their decisions have an effect is really important.”

Simon Tilling, a partner at law firm Steptoe & Johnson UK who is not involved in the move, said it aligned with a growing trend for companies to define a specific corporate purpose beyond 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 with the wording proposed by other initiatives, such as the Better Business Act campaign.”

Last week, the billionaire owner of outdoor activities brand Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard, announced that he would donate the entire company to fight climate devastation on Earth.

But Tilling warned that the nature keeper 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.

“Although in recent years there has been a trend away from a rigid interpretation that this means absolute primacy of shareholder returns to include more discretion for directors, there is still much debate in the legal profession about how much freedom directors have. directors”.

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