In November, House of Hackney was the second company to appoint an ‘human nature guardian’. This person has a formal say in corporate decisions that could affect long-term sustainability.
Frieda Gormley is a co-founder of the London-based company, which sells wallpapers, fabrics, paints and furnishings. She said that she always wanted to create a brand which allowed people to connect to nature, by using sustainable materials or exploring regenerative agriculture, so this was the natural next step.
Gormley told Positive News that “the guardian” will have access to experts who can offer advice on a variety of topics. If we don’t take their advice, then we will have to explain publicly why we didn’t. “This is all about accountability .”
House of Hackney’s move was inspired by eco-beauty firm , with the help of community-interest company Lawyers for Nature.
Simeon Rose, Faith In Nature’s creative director, recalled there was a crackle in the air at the first board meeting with a nature guardian. “Having a presence there speaking for nature is huge. You know that nature is there, not necessarily judging you, but getting you to raise your game.”
Brontie A. Ansell, a senior lecturer at Essex Law School who is also the director of Lawyers for Nature, was the first to assume this role. She described it as a very intense experience. “It wasn’t until after that first board meeting that I woke up in the middle of the night in a massive cold sweat and [the fact that I was the first person to speak on behalf of the natural world] hit me like a bullet train.”
The impact has not been black and white, said Rose, who described it as more of a mindset shift. “By knowing that there is ultimately going to be this lens at the end, where nature’s asked its view, you find that it starts trickling in much earlier in the decision-making process.”
“Having a presence speaking for nature is huge. Nature is there, not necessarily judging you, but getting you to raise your game”
This move is part a growing trend where companies define a corporate purpose that goes beyond financial profit. The Better Business Act campaign is a good example of firms trying to change UK laws to ensure that every company aligns their interests with those in society and the environment.
Rose is frequently contacted by other businesses, charities and museums who want to learn from the experiences of his firm. Faith In Nature has contributed to a research project conducted at The University of Sydney, and even published a guide for companies that are interested in making a similar move.
Gormley, at House of Hackney said that thinking about what nature has to say already made a big difference. Her firm recently turned down a lucrative offer of collaboration because it didn’t meet their environmental standards.
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