2, November 2022
Early observations on working with Nature
The real work is not in the appointing, but in the working with Nature towards better informed, more conscious decisions that take the natural world into account. So what is it like sharing the boardroom table with a non-human entity that has never had a voice in business before?
Well, it’s early days. We’re still learning this new relationship. And not everything in Nature happens quickly. The first company was incorporated in 1600. It’s taken 422 years since then for this seed to be planted in the boardroom, so it is only right that it be given time and space to grow.
We have two guardians currently representing Nature — Alexandra Pimor of Earth Law Center and Brontie Ansell of Lawyers for Nature — but we are learning to see them in new ways. When working as Nature, it is as if they wear a mask. They are removing themselves from the conversation as best possible and advocating for the whole. They are conferring with as many experts as necessary to reach informed, responsible decisions, and they are reporting back. There is a degree of role-play involved, a degree of ego-loss, a degree of parenthood. Overwhelmingly, there is a lot of responsibility. Not just to speak as Nature, but to help define how this new system works.
But it is not only their work that is defining this change. Equally (if not more?) important is our response to it. And though we haven’t yet made any major decisions that would require a landmark vote, there is a subtle shift to be felt.
Sometimes that the question even exists is the most important thing of all. We’ve been asking ‘What would Nature say?’ for some time now — and that in itself points us in the right direction. Because more often than not, when you ask yourself this question, you realise you already know the answer.
But having Nature actually there in the room with us takes this to another level. It’s a bit like ‘Chekhov’s gun’ — the idea that when a gun enters a storyline, it must then be used. So it is not so much a gun as a literary device. And likewise making Nature a director is a device that unlocks a whole new storyline in the way we do business.
The move also has echoes of the Hawthorne Effect — the idea that simply being watched changes behaviour. By shutting Nature out of a decision making process, we can pretend we don’t know the impact of our decisions upon it. But by allowing Nature in, that pretence falls away. By design, we cannot be wilfully blind to our actions when we are told what the result of those actions will be.
And, we’re learning, having Nature on board also does something for our inner Natures. Our better Natures, if you will. There is greater clarity on our purpose, a deeper understanding of mostly unseen stakeholders, increased unity and a new North star.
In short, not all effects of this move will be seismic. Many will be subtle. But then so many of Nature’s wonders are.