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“Sometimes evolution feeds on the weirdest mutations”: Boards powered by the Gaia!

By Praveen Gupta

Mar 08 2023 · 4 min read

Illuminem Voices
Corporate Governance · ESG · Social Responsibility

As the world of governance increasingly encompasses an ‘E’ and a ‘S’ - thereby the Environmental Social Governance (ESG) - the stakeholders’ universe promises to go way beyond the binary obsession. The existing patriarchy, regulations and protocols fall terribly short. Hence a compelling reason to seek answers for a sustainable and equitable world. A world that is not just inclusive in a male and female sense or enabling the coming generation or democratizing corporate ownership but beyond the anthropocentric - thereby bringing Nature on boards. Early days for the latter but the experiment has commenced. Readying ourselves for, as Kate Raworth known for ‘doughnut economics’ puts it: “What would Nature ask the business to do?”

Stephanie Stacey writes in the Insider: “One-third of Gen Zers in a recent KPMG survey said they'd rejected a job offer because they didn't like a company's green credentials… one in three Gen Z respondents said they'd rejected a job offer based on a company's ESG record - higher than the figure of one in five for the respondents of all ages… The growing group of climate-conscious job seekers is part of the wider movement of "climate quitters" - people seeking environmentally friendly companies and leaving their jobs to join them”. Here is Clinical Professor Alison Taylor reinforcing it, as she comments on a recent story by Adrian Wooldridge in Bloomberg - ‘McKinsey’s Missteps Point to an Industry-Wide Mess’: “Because if you were to have meaningful principles, you would sure attract the best and brightest. This is clear to me in the classroom every day”. Alison teaches at NYU Stern.

Hub Culture

So what is it that will be diverse enough and sustainably stimulating which will draw the Gen Zers?

Let us look at some of the live ongoing experiments drawing attention. Hub Culture, a digital ecosystem with a mission to push the boundaries of sustainability with evolving technology, will become the first company to replace its entire board with Nature by appointing the Atlantic Ocean to replace all seven of its current board members.

"Our aim is to put the rights of nature at the heart of the boardroom governance process for Hub Culture, our products and services," said founder Stan Stalnaker. "This idea is a culmination of actions set in motion during the UN biodiversity Summit (COP15) in Montreal, where discussions on the rights of nature took center stage."

To ensure legal viability, Hub Culture will use its Propel governance system to assign nine proxy board advocates to act on behalf of the Atlantic Ocean. One of these advocates includes Zeke.ai, which will become the first Artificial Intelligence (AI) to participate in the company's board-level decisions. The board transition and new board member proxies will be announced June 28, 2023 at the Hub Culture Frontlines Summit in Bermuda, a forum for stakeholders interested in ocean health and sea level rise response to frontline ocean communities. Stalnaker says the company will “ensure no company decision occurs without first hearing from Nature”.

Faith In Nature

Isabella Kaminski of The Guardian has another fascinating story: “This Edinburgh-based company sells soap and haircare products, as well as household cleaners and shampoo for dogs, says it is the first company in the world to give nature a formal vote on corporate decisions that might affect it taps into a growing global movement to assign nature legal rights, although it has had little traction to date in the UK.

Simeon Rose, Faith In Nature’s creative director, said he hoped other businesses who take their responsibility to the natural world seriously would follow suit… 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 that a reality.

Working with lawyers from ‘Lawyers for Nature’ and the US-based Earth Law Center, as well as a pro bono team of corporate experts at international law firm Shearman & Sterling LLP, the company updated its corporate documents to say that, as well as benefiting shareholders, it would do its best “to have a positive impact on nature as a whole” and “to minimise the prospect of any harmful impact of its business operations on nature”.

The first person to hold the position as a non-executive director is Brontie Ansell, senior lecturer in law in Essex Law School and director of ‘Lawyers for Nature’, her role would be similar to a guardian acting on behalf of a child in a court of law. Brontie would be a spokeswoman for the natural world.

“We’re really happy to share details of how and why we did this” says 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 that a reality.”"

In conclusion

Appalled by what kind of a depleted world we could leave behind; Lord Nicolas Stern and Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz assert: “There is no ethical justification for giving so little weight to future generations’ welfare.” Notwithstanding the hubris of our race, we must bear in mind Richard Feynman’s belief that the imagination of nature will always exceed that of the human animal (source: www.themarginalian.com by Maria Popova). A Gen Zer rebellion moderated by Nature bodes well for the future direction of the boards. And it may not end here. Would Ireland’s referendum give nature the same rights as people?

“Sometimes evolution feeds on the weirdest mutations”, says John Elkington - an authority on corporate responsibility and sustainable development. I draw this excerpt from his thoughts on Hub Culture. Certainly a long overdue course correction and a welcome mutation!

illuminem Voices is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of leading Sustainability & Energy writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.

Cover photo by Robert Lukeman on Unsplash
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About the author

Praveen is a former insurance CEO and a Chartered Insurer. He devotes his time to researching, writing, and speaking on diverse subjects. Praveen was the second most-read author in the environment and sustainability space for illuminem in 2022. His blog www.thediversityblog.com captures much of his work.

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