The Nature Conservancy believes that relevant diversity on all boards that it participates in is critical to board effectiveness. Relevant diversity means inclusion of the identities, skills and spheres of influence that are strategically relevant to the context and the Board’s purpose. As an example, this may mean inclusion of upstream landowners, including indigenous peoples if any, for water funds boards. Inclusion of indigenous peoples on such boards is also part of our commitment to abide by the participatory requirements of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Relevant diversity may also mean someone who brings financial acumen to such a board. It may mean someone of the majority ethnicity in the geography and someone from the minority ethnicity if any. It may mean someone who has credibility with the government. TNC is working internally to increase the strategically relevant diversity on its chapter boards and wants to operate consistently as it is involved in setting up boards for other entities.
In all cases, gender diversity is a relevant difference. Gender diversity is critical for many reasons, including TNC’s ongoing commitment to furthering gender equity in all our work, as well as because an increasing number of donors and government agencies require it for eligibility for funding. For example, US AID and the Government of Australia both require addressing gender equity in projects that will be funded. Foundations increasingly also require gender diversity on boards. For example, within the last year TNC was involved in setting up a board for a NatureVest entity; that entity almost lost a $500,000 foundation grant because the Board was all male. The board had to be reconfigured to secure payment of the formerly pledged funds.
Diversity on boards is one way in which the Nature Conservancy is enacting its core value of commitment to diversity. One of the two current priorities for TNC’s own Trustee Program is board diversity. Assessment to determine what are the strategically relevant differences for each business unit board, and working toward including trustees who bring these to their board, is our best and next practice, while including gender diversity in all cases.
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