| 09.02.2024

Designing corporate governance principles to protect our nature

Olika örter i knippen i rad på ett bord
Biodiversity loss is among the biggest challenges facing us. In order to address this challenge, businesses need to implement governance principles that promote the protection of our nature. Theresa Harrer, a postdoctoral researcher at Hanken School of Economics, is on a mission to find out how these governance principles for biodiversity should look like.

“Biodiversity governance is about care in terms of understanding and protecting our nature. Nature has its own rhythm, which isn't always related to the pace we have in the business world. Getting to know this natural rhythm helps corporations to adapt their accounting tools and make better decisions”, says Theresa Harrer, who is a researcher at Hanken’s Centre for Accounting, Finance and Governance.

Harrer explains that the natural temporal cycle extends beyond the changing seasons.

“As an example, plants don’t grow at the same place or time every year. The restaurants are of course very dependent on which ingredients you get so they need to be able to change recipes accordingly. The idea is to transform it from a limitation into exploring what we can achieve with this knowledge.”

Porträttbild av Theresa Harrer framför en abstrakt tavla
Theresa Harrer

Harrer emphasizes the necessity for companies, for instance in the tourism sector, to adopt more flexible business plans. 

“This is crucial as people will inevitably need to adjust their holiday habits in response to climate change.”

Traditional European healing arts

Harrer’s project builds on an ethnographic case study of an Austrian organization, TEH – Traditionelle Europäische Heilkunde. TEH preserves knowledge about traditional European healing arts and the philosophy behind those healing arts centers very much around protecting and caring for nature. By arranging courses for individuals, TEH aims to raise awareness of this philosophy, which is classified as UNESCO intangible cultural heritage, among ordinary citizens. Yet, TEH also strives to translate the philosophy into businesses through corporate partnership programmes with, for example, hotels and farmers.

Harrer is actively working with TEH to develop the governance principles for biodiversity. According to Harrer, the philosophy of traditional European healing arts resembles values that are crucial for so-called “nature-based solutions”. The project can, therefore, offer crucial insights and development opportunities for Finnish and Nordic organizations.

One of the challenges today is that biodiversity protection or similar initiatives are usually led by one person in a company. 

“It’s good that someone is doing this job, but the challenge is how to spread awareness throughout an entire organization. The biodiversity governance principles will hopefully help to establish tools and awareness that enable businesses to tackle biodiversity loss more effectively.”

The research project is supported by the Horizon Europe project TC4BE, Transformative change for biodiversity and equity.  

Text: Jessica Gustafsson