In business we’re always told to consider our stakeholders. A stakeholder has a vested interest in a company and can either affect or be affected by the company’s operations and performance. These are usually considered customers, suppliers, employees, the local community or investors.
At Sustained Fun we consider The Environment to be one of our stakeholders. Our entire reason for being is to reduce the waste produced by single-use water balloons so The Environment is obviously a stakeholder as it has a vested interest in our company.
It could be argued that stakeholders need to be able to speak for themselves and only humans can do this. But in NZ there are environmental entities that are considered ‘people’.
In 2017 the NZ parliament granted the Whanganui River legal personhood, giving it the same rights and responsibilities as a person. The 290 km river flows through the Whanganui National Park and the legislation provides for the river’s long-term protection and restoration and recognises the Whanganui iwi’s deep spiritual connection and ancestral relationship to the river.
In practical terms the Whanganui River/Te Awa Tupua has a group of people, Te Pou Tupua, who act on its behalf. Their job includes acting and speaking on behalf of Te Awa Tupua and promoting and protecting the health and wellbeing of Te Awa Tupua.
Ideally, as a stakeholder in a business, The Environment would need to have an independent representative. At Sustained Fun we don’t yet have the resources to do this and as the business is currently only staffed by the two co-founders there is a continual conflict of interest when balancing business decisions with environmental effects.
At Sustained Fun we act on behalf of The Environment by embedding environmental considerations into our founding documents and considering the environment in our business decisions. Our Code of Ethics states:
We acknowledge the intrinsic value of the environment, flora and fauna. We acknowledge our, and future generations', dependence on the environment and will minimise the negative impact of our behaviour and our business operations. We will work to have a positive impact on the environment.
We also have a Sustainable and Ethical Procurement Policy that states that we will: within our power, provide a responsible product for conscious consumers; find environmentally and socially responsible organisations to work with; support a more circular economy; work with suppliers to reduce the negative environmental impacts of business.
If the Whanganui River has legal personhood then there’s no reason to not consider The Environment as a whole to be a stakeholder and at Sustained Fun we will give it at least equal priority to our other stakeholders.