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Environmental problems cause 13 million deaths every year. Nature’s action is still trapped in a silo

As a result, we have a deeply ingrained habit of siloing our care for nature – whether it is a sustainability team, a ministry or indigenous communities; This makes this a responsibility of a few people to study, think about and act on.

We see protecting nature as an item on our to-do list, often among immediate economic goals – because we think it is the most essential priority for our existence. One way we can conceptualize this is as ‘weak sustainability’.

We do not see that we and our companies cannot be healthy without a healthy environment. As a Māori whakatauki (proverb) says: “If the land is good, so are the people.”

Nature’s prison break moment

“The first law of ecology is that everything is connected to everything else” — Barry Commoner, biologist

An ecological mindset invites us to recognize that the health and well-being of our families, communities and nations are deeply interdependent on the health of our Earth and its ecosystems. As we break free from the constraints of human-centered worldviews, we begin to lead and act based on the knowledge that nature is the foundation of our survival and the greatest hope for a safe, just future in all respects; social, cultural and financial. One way we can conceptualize this is as ‘strong sustainability’.

Until we as leaders adopt an ecological mindset, our best efforts will fail to keep our species alive and well, let alone thriving.

Ecological leadership can ensure strong sustainability and support the global fight against climate change.

Ecological leadership can ensure strong sustainability and support the global fight against climate change.Image: Skringar, MER, Makris, MP, & Williams, S. Systemic and institutional barriers to core sustainability: addressing the elephant in the room

4 key principles of the ecological mindset

We recognize that indigenous and ancient wisdom traditions have been leaders of an ecological mindset for thousands of generations. Here are our insights into the progress:

  • Stewardship: Understanding our interdependence with nature and seeing care, protection and stewardship of our earth as a fundamental goal for every organization.
  • Mutual dependance: Cultivate respect and reverence for the Earth by recognizing that we are nothing without its gifts and ecosystem services, from food and water to climate regulation, pollination and spiritual connection.
  • Cooperation: Working with nature in decision-making, biomimicry and innovation, while taking into account the rights of current and future generations, both human and non-human.
  • Amendment: For millennia, our Earth has adapted to changes and continues to regenerate itself. For Her part, we learn from Her how to adapt community and business development to local contexts, nurture diversity to create greater resilience, reinvest in places and seasons, honor cycles and balance (rather than linear models of constant activity and growth).

An ecological mindset in learning and education

Ecological literacy is the understanding of how life works, how nature functions and its principles and processes. It’s time to challenge educational silos and integrate nature into any subject, be it health, business, law, design, construction, design, psychology or history.

This work is already underway in many places. The Business for Nature Fellowship, for example, is an incubator and learning experience that supports ecological entrepreneurs in developing themselves and companies that focus on the restoration and protection of nature. Other educational initiatives such as the Edible Schoolyard Project, La Lucena and Fundación Agroecológica Iguazú use the medium of organic gardening, tree growing and agriculture to regenerate land and teach interdisciplinary knowledge and values ​​of stewardship, care, nutrition and community.

Fire Circle focuses on sharing ecological knowledge. It is a global initiative that brings indigenous wisdom to business and community leaders and students in culturally safe ways, such as through an MBA program at Oxford Saïd Business School. Ora New Zealand is another source of inspiration, in Aotearoa New Zealand, providing educational workshops in the native bush, sharing the traditional healing wisdom of Māori and their ways of caring for the mauri (life essence) of both people and the planet to take care of.

An ecological mentality in business

Regardless of whether initiatives like the Biodiversity Plan require this of us, we must recognize how any harm to nature and communities ultimately leads to our own harm. When we launch a product or close a unit, we need to understand the diverse impacts on nature’s ecosystems and on our own communities. This is already starting at some companies.

Mars Corporation leaders boldly asked the question, “What is the right level of profit?” in an effort to strive for balance and reciprocity rather than maximizing profits, with little concern for the consequences.

An ecological mindset questions our commercial purpose and urges us to ask: what is the reason for our organization’s existence?

More and more companies are starting to see nature as a stakeholder. Regeneration Projects has worked with a multi-sector alliance of tourism leaders on Australia’s Phillip Island to include whales, penguins and other local wildlife as stakeholders. This approach promotes ways to engage visitors and businesses in volunteering and investing in local ecosystems.

These shifts must be institutionalized in the structure, ownership and governance of our organizations. Notable examples of this include Patagonia, which took ownership of the earth, and the British Beauty B Corp. The Faith in Nature Constitution gives the Earth a voice. Indigenous, family, employee and charity businesses are full of more examples of this. An example of this is Wakatū Incorporation in Aotearoa New Zealand, an indigenous group with property, food and beverage businesses driven by a 500-year intergenerational vision, focused on regeneration of land and strengthening culture and community.

Our old systems are falling apart. They are no longer suited to today’s challenges. Leaders who follow the momentum by becoming early adopters of an ecological mindset unlock new opportunities and ways to organize, educate, govern and do business.

Time is of the essence. Do you want to be this leader for your community and our earth?

This article first appeared on the World Economic Forum.