Nature Stakeholders

type - trends
category - sustainability
As companies face growing criticism for climate inaction, some organisations are paving the way forward by electing nature as a legal stakeholder

Drivers: what’s happening

In every corner of the world, the reality of the climate crisis is becoming impossible to ignore. In South Asia, for example, research from the University of Chicago has found that air pollution could reduce the average person's life expectancy by over five years. Meanwhile, across the globe, rain water has become too toxic to drink, as research from Stockholm and ETH Zurich universities reveals it contains alarming levels of harmful perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

As the world becomes an increasingly hostile place for humans and other animal and plant species to survive, citizens are starting to hold corporations accountable for their role in the climate crisis. In 2017, a report by the Carbon Majors Database found that 100 companies were responsible for some 71% of global carbon emissions. Since then, consumers have become more selective about the companies they shop from. Indeed, more than one in three UK consumers stopped doing business with a brand in 2021 because they had doubts about its sustainability (source: Deloitte).

Now, support is growing for a grassroots movement to assign the natural world legal rights. By acknowledging nature as a legal entity, companies would be required to consider the environment when developing business plans and targets, upending the way capitalism has been practised since its inception.

Published by:

8 November 2022

Author: Lavinia Fasano

Image: Scenes From the Last Day on Planet Earth by Chris Maggio, US


Faith in Nature, UK

Case studies: what’s new

Madras High Court

In 2017, the High Court of Uttarakhand in northern India granted the Ganges and Yamuna rivers the same legal standing as people in an effort to fight pollution (source: The Guardian). In May 2022, the The Madras High Court in Tamil Nadu, in the country's southeast, made a similar decision, declaring that Mother Nature has the same legal standing as a human being, including ‘all corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person’ (source: Inside Climate News). While the Supreme Court overturned the 2017 decision – citing concerns about duties and liabilities – the latest ruling shows that the Environmental Personhood movement is not losing steam in India. Now, lawyers across the world are trying to identify a new set of legal parameters that ‘move beyond legal personhood to legal naturehood in which the rights of nature are protected and properly interpreted, guaranteed and upheld’, says Mari Margil, executive director of the Center for Democratic and Environmental Rights.

Faith in Nature

While The Rights of Nature movement is gathering pace around the world, it has picked up little traction in the UK, a country where privatised water companies are still being penalised for polluting rivers and waterways. Now, Edinburgh-based beauty company Faith in Nature has hired a director to represent nature on its board. The decision will give the natural world a formal vote on the actions that will affect it in the future. The company has appointed Brontie Ansell, senior lecturer in law in Essex Law School and director of Lawyers for Nature, to join the company's board meetings, where her role will be like that of a guardian protecting a child in a court of law.

‘We are going to give away the maximum amount of money to people who are actively working on saving this planet’
Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia

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