Tuesday, August 28, 2018

An Environmental Ethic

An Environmental Ethic
Dr Robert Howell.


The Western perspective that man is free to deal with nature as he pleases, since it exists only for his sake, has been the dominant historical view, with two important minority traditions.  This has received critical discussion during the latter part of last century and this century.  It has been encouraged by the recognition that our Earth’s ecosystems are under serious threat through such matters as abuse of chemicals and climate warming.  There is one stream of thinking that looks to extend traditional ethical frameworks that deal with human-human relationships, to include human-Earth matters.   Another stream argues a change in ethics is required that recognises the equal right of all entities in nature to flourish because the nonhuman world has value independently of any value to human benefit.

To evaluate such positions, the categories of everyday moral language; schema involving policies, charters and codes; and meta-ethics are described. An example of a schema is given with the ANZ Bank’s Code of Conduct, with some other policies and strategies.  Leopold’s Land Ethic and Naess’ deep ecology are discussed, and shown to have serious flaws, limiting their ability to develop useful codes.  Instead, an extension to human-human ethics is proposed using Aristotle’s notion of friendship (to lack friends is to lack part of what makes for a flourishing human existence). For a large number of, although not all, individual living things and the ecosystems and the processes within which the organisms exist, we should recognise and promote their flourishing as an end in itself because it is in our interests to do so.  The best human life is one that includes an awareness of and practical concern for the non-human world.

Because ANZ’s Code of Conduct only deals with human-human responsibilities, an environmental ethic is developed using the conclusions from the discussion above, and using a section from the Earth Charter as the starting base.  A General Principle is proposed: Respect and care for the Earth and its ecological systems by living within the energy and material capacity of the Earth to support human and other forms of life, encourage resilience, and take responsibility as stewards of the Earth (kaitiakitanga). There are specific principles that describe in more detail the ethical positions and policies that can flow from the general principle that recognise the interests of the non-human world, and the value of that world for human flourishing.

Consideration is then given to some of the implications for the financial sector if such an ethic was introduced.  Evidence is presented of priorities and a culture within the international financial and banking sector, and evidence from the Australia's Financial Services Royal Commission, that major cultural and organisational change is required if the sector is to adopt and implement an environmental ethic that has a chance of addressing the major threats to a deterioring environment that threatens life on Earth as we know it.


In an article written in 1947, Aldo Leopold wrote that when Odysseus returned from the wars in Troy, he hanged a dozen slave-girls whom he suspected of misbehaviour.  The girls were his property.   During the last three thousand years or so since then, ethical criteria have been extended to many fields of conduct including slavery.  But, Leopold, argued, we now need to extend this to include soils, waters, plants and animals.  He proposed an ethic where a thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community.  It is wrong when it tends otherwise [1].

Leopold’s claim that this extension was needed overlooked that there have always been people throughout history who have included human-Earth relations in their ethic.  These include people from many indigenous cultures, Francis of Assisi, Blake, Wordsworth, John Muir (Sierra Club), Gandhi, Rousseau and Schweitzer.  German foresters influenced in part by Rousseau, and the movement promoting wilderness, included a human-Earth perspective into their thinking [2].  Passmore in his historical review, states that there is a strong Western tradition that man is free to deal with nature as he pleases, since it exists only for his sake.  It is incorrect to trace this attitude back to Genesis.  But there are two important minority traditions where responsibilities to nature exist.  The first is a conservationist responsibility: conserving the earth’s fertility.  The second, according to Passmore, looks to the perfection of nature by man, taking into account a stewardship and cooperation-with-nature role [3].

It was twentieth century scientists such as Rachel Carson [4] and Aldo Leopold who led the modern development in environmental ethics. Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation, originally written as an article in 1973 for the New York Review of Books, and then as a book [5], began a widespread animal rights movement for better treatment of animals.  Then followed environmental philosophers such as Naess (deep ecology), [6]  Callicott (the leading contemporary exponent of Leopold’s land ethic), [7] Taylor (respect for nature) [8], and Roulson (value in nature), [9] amongst many others.  Naess argued that there were two strands to the ecology movement: a shallow one concerned with pollution and resource depletion, and a deeper one requiring a change in ethics recognising the equal right of all living organisms to flourish because both human and nonhuman life have value in themselves.

The Western tradition that man is free to deal with nature as he pleases, lies behind a lot of the deterioration of the Earth through selfish exploitation of the Earth’s resources. Yet there is much mileage that can be made for careful use of non-human resources by extending existing human-human ethics.   We should not pollute our neighbour’s well and their source of water, because that would injure or kill them, and that is against current moral and legal codes.  Most international discussion of central environmental issues such as global warming, marine and atmospheric pollution, depletion of the ozone, toxic waste, rainforest destruction, argues for action because of the negative effect on humans [10].

Traditional ethics was for many years concerned with human-human relationships: it was the scientists like Carson who argued for a human-Earth ethic.  But modern philosophers have used existing ethical frameworks to do this now.  Hursthouse is an example of someone who has used the Aristotelian approach [11]. She has developed the virtue of respect for nature as a new virtue. 

Peter Singer is a modern utilitarian or consequentialist.  He devotes two chapters of the third edition of Practical Ethics to climate change, and the environment, respectively [12].  He describes an environmental ethic arguing from a human-centred ethics.   He argues that we have a responsibility to avoid harming people.  Individually and collectively through our emissions we are causing harm.  We have an obligation to act individually and to change the policy of governments to slow climate change. 

Shue uses the social contract tradition to advocate for a rights approach based on fairness [13].  He states that the purpose of a right is to provide protection for human beings against a threat to which they are vulnerable and against which they may be powerless without such protective action. To be effective they must be international and intergenerational.   Rapid climate change places current and future generations in the kind of circumstances that call for the construction of rights-protecting institutions. Climate change threatens in particular the right to life, the right to health, and the right to subsistence. He argues that rights-protecting institutions are required now. He argues on the principle of fairness for the right of all current and future generations to life, and for immediate action to reduce this environmental destruction.

It has been the last few decades of the twentieth century and this century, with the growing awareness of the deterioration of the Earth’s ecological systems, especially those that are critical for human survival, that the need to rethink our values has become urgent.  Global warming is the obvious threat, but there are other aspects including water, food supplies, atmospheric and water borne toxins, and species loss.  This is linked with the limits to growth, and this is in contrast to our dominant economic activity that sees no limits to the exploitation of Earth’s resources for human utility. The dominant international economic model is based on out-dated scientific and ethical principles.

Are we able to rely on the extension of various traditional ethical philosophies to provide the ethics to drive the changes in our use of resources, our economies and ways of living, or do we need a non-anthropogenic perspective that values nature independently of any benefit to human life?   Before we discuss a number of the various options, including the limitations of Leopold’s Land Ethic, and issues with intrinsic value, it is helpful to describe the differences between everyday ethical discourse, schema that include charters, rules and policies, and an ethical meta-language that deals with primary moral concepts or principles.

Ethics: Everyday Language; Schema; Meta-language

Right action concerns the principles of right and wrong that govern our choices and pursuits, understood collectively to constitute a moral code that defines the responsibilities of people.  It is based on everyday discourse that includes words such as “right”, “ought”, “duty”, “obligations”, and “responsibilities”.  We talk about obligations parents have towards their children for their care and nurture.  Organisations have responsibilities towards their employees.  Entitlements can be rights, or what people are owed.  This is moral language. 

When these descriptions of intention or behaviour are gathered together in a set they can take the form of professional rules; organisational charters; national constitutions; policies; codes of conduct; creeds and doctrines; and cultural customs through myths, stories, and traditions. An illustration is the ANZ Bank’s codes and policies.

ANZ Bank
The ANZ Bank’s Code of Conduct is in Appendix 1 [14].  This Code deals only with human-human responsibilities.  In addition ANZ has adopted corporate sustainability principles that involve Responsible business lending; Climate change Statement; Managing their footprint; Sustainable sourcing [15]. They endorse the  United Nations Principles on Business and Human Rights, UN Global Compact, and follow the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and apply the Equator Principles to all project finance transactions [16]  They have a Sustainability Report [17] and use the Global Reporting Initiative. This means that they reported in 2017 on where they lend (consumer lending 41.5%, 1.5% mining); project finance (they are supporting renewable energy, but are still investing in coal and gas); GHG emissions scope 1 & 2 & 3 (includes energy for premises, vehicle transport, air travel, employee commuting); paper used, waste to landfill, and water.  There were 1443 breaches of the Code of Conduct, and 121 whistle blowing events. 

ANZ’s strategy is focussed on becoming simpler, better balanced and more service-oriented to help businesses and people respond to a changing world. One of their key strategic priorities is to drive a purpose and values-led transformation of the bank. They state they are creating a stronger sense of purpose, ethics and fairness, investing in leaders who can help sense and navigate a rapidly changing environment. They are also committed to doing more to address community concerns about housing (affordability and access), environmental sustainability and financial wellbeing — three societal challenges. Their most material issue using stakeholders ranking is fairness and ethical conduct.


Schemas describe standards or sets of rules or customs or policies and are attempts to give system, clarity, and intellectual power to everyday moral activity and discourse. In these codes are certain primary moral concepts or principles.  When we talk about these principles, we are using a meta-language: we are talking about the moral language or schema. Meta-ethics is the study of the methods of justification by which different ethical theories claim to be better at describing values and resolving ethical issues.

Philosophers have developed theories about these primary moral principles, and argued that a certain notion or notions could be used to derive explanations about what was ethical. Theories can also aim to advocate for different understandings about how to behave where there are contradictions between different discourse and behaviour, and between different schemas.   Kant relied on the notion of duty [18], the Utilitarians on the concept of happiness or utility [19], and Rawls on the idea of equity [20].  Aristotelians use a set of virtues coordinated by eudemonia [21].  Hobbes and Locke [22] were early advocates for the idea of a social contract that described the responsibilities between a ruler and their subjects.  That approach has been very influential in French, American and international thought (example: Universal Declaration of Human Rights [23]), that include individual property rights.  These traditional ethical theorists or theories primarily focus on human-human relations, although Utilitarians were reformers in regard to such attitudes and behaviour towards animals.

How to Evaluate Schema and Theories

There are two steps in validating schema and theories.  Step 1 requires consideration at a conceptual level: does the theory make sense? Is it comprehensive and consistent?  Step 2 requires empirical considerations: in applying the schema, does it have the desired effect on behaviour?  Is the application of the principle realistic?

Leopold’s Land Ethic

Leopold proposed an ethic where a thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community.  It is wrong when it tends otherwise.  Although Leopold’s ethic has been influential in alerting people to the need for a human-Earth ethic, there are problems with all three concepts of his proposal.  Stability is not a useful notion here.  In an evolving world, cohesion and uniformity are not the norm.  Pickett and Ostfeld argue that ecosystems are open, unpredictably changing and variable [24], internally heterogeneous and patchy, with species redundancy.  Cronin states that many popular ideas about the environment are premised on the conviction that nature is a stable, holistic, homeostatic community capable of preserving its natural balance more or less indefinitely if only humans can avoid ‘disturbing ‘ it.   This is in fact a deeply problematic assumption [25].

Integrity could be understood as connecting all the parts, or interconnected. Earth System Science aims to research the world as one connected planet.  This was developed as one response to Lovelock’s concept of Gaia to describe his hypothesis about Earth as a self-regulating entity. This postulates that the physical and chemical condition of the surface of the Earth, of the atmosphere, and the oceans has been and is actively made fit and comfortable by the presence of life itself [26].  Earth Science System does not commit to Lovelock’s idea of the Earth as a living self-regulating entity.

The Earth can be seen as a natural whole that includes humans.  Nature, in the broadest sense, is the natural, physical, or material world or universe. Nature can refer to the phenomena of the physical world, and also to life in general. Or the notion of nature can be used to exclude humans when it is defined as existing in or derived from nature; not made or caused by humankind.  Artificial can then be understood as made or produced by human beings rather than occurring naturally.  What nature is has received recent discussion in the light of the designation of the title, Anthropocene.  This is a proposed epoch dating from the commencement of significant human impact on the Earth's geology and ecosystems.  Latour has said that if the course of river is followed, human influence is found everywhere.  In Hawaii there are rocks made partly of lava and plastic.  And what has happened to the landscape is now happening to the whole Earth – its gradual ratification is making the notion of nature separate from humans, and the distinction of natural and artificial, obsolete [27]. Smil has concluded from his research that If we were to divide all terrestrial vertebrates on Earth into the 3 classes of wild animals, domesticated animals, and human beings, and weighed them to obtain their total mass, then it turns out that humans equal 30%, domesticated animals have 67%, and wild animals equals 3% of the total [28].  Hamilton claims that the new anthropocentrism puts itself outside the usual debate over values, including the notion of intrinsic value [29].

But the use of natural and artificial, or integral or an undivided Earth where every thing is connected, has other limitations for a moral principle.  A tree growing in a forest is natural, an house made of the wood from the tree is artificial.  A garden pot made from clay is artificial, because it is made by humans.  A work of art is an artefact, but the materials that go to make up the work may be natural. A plastic bag is an artefact, yet the oil or gas that it is made from is natural.  Yet these artifacts are not morally wrong because they are artifacts, but because of their use or harm or impact on society and the environment generally.  The moral assessment we make does not depend on the natural / artificial distinction, but on the notion of harm.

It is not necessary to decide on the merits or otherwise of the debate of whether to accept Lovelock’s notion of Gaia, or Leopold’s notion of integrity, but to consider whether either position provides the moral principles for right behaviour towards the environment. We are asked to consider those actions that are in accord with protecting or enhancing the Earth as a whole, including its systems, are right, and those actions that threaten that as wrong.  The current threats to human life on Earth include over population of humans, climate warming, atmospheric and water-borne toxins.  These threats could well lead to an Earth without human life.  But why is that any better or worse that an Earth without dinosaurs?  Could not an Earth without humans be seen as another phase of an evolutionary story?  Lovelock quotes Havel who says that our destiny is not dependent merely on what we do for ourselves but also on what we do for Gaia as a whole.  If we endanger her, she will dispense with us in the interests of a higher value – life itself.  But this is an argument that amounts to saying it is in the interests of humans that we live within the ability of Earth’s systems that support human life.  The primary concept is not life, but what protects human life.  We therefore need to value the Earth by living within the Earth’s means to support human life because it is in our interest to do so.

There are also problems with the aesthetic notion of beauty when given moral status.  The relationship between aesthetics and morality has received a lot of philosophical interest in recent years [30] and there are various theories about how art and ethics fit.  What can be said here is that what is beautiful is not necessarily ethical.  Devereaux’s article, Beauty and Evil: The Case of Leni Riefenstahl’s ‘Triumph of the Will’ [31], describes the documentary film of Hitler’s 1934 Nuremberg Nazi Party rally.  The film is a very beautiful work of art, yet the vision of Hitler’s Reich is false, pernicious and evil.

Beauty is primarily an aesthetic concept, rather than an ethical one, but it is closely related to morality: awe of the beauty of the world can inspire changes in attitude and behaviour. For Ursula Goodenough, a scientist, it is the mystery of why there is anything at all, the mystery of where the laws of physics came from, the mystery of why the universe is so strange, that generate wonder, and wonder generates awe [32]  But beauty here is a means, not an end, to moral behaviour, it is not a defining quality of what constitutes moral behaviour.  On these conceptual grounds Leopold’s Land Ethic does not help us towards an environmental ethic that enables principles for a human-Earth relationship to guide behaviour.

Intrinsic Value

There is a well developed literature that holds that non-human entities have a value that does not depend on human utility.  Sometimes this is expressed as non-instrumental value, intrinsic value, value in itself: non-human entities and states in nature have value independent of any usefulness for human purposes.  This has received much discussion in the academic literature: Naess [33], Taylor [34], Schweitzer [35], Rolston [36], amongst others. The Earth Charter states: Recognize that all beings are interdependent and every form of life has value regardless of its worth to human beings [37].  

The main difficulties with the notion of intrinsic value concern what is to be included in the moral domain, and whether all entities in that domain have equal value.  Naess refers to human and non-human life, but also the non-human world.  Leopold argued that we need to extend the ethical domain to include soils, waters, plants and animals. His Land Ethic referred to the biotic community. Biotic means relating to or resulting from living organisms.  Water is not an organism.  A lump of coal is not an organism.  Both Naess and Leopold were not consistent.

If the ethical domain excludes a number of things, how are we to judge the value of the excluded items? If I burn a lump of coal, is that a good or bad action?  Because of climate warming, we want to leave as much coal as there is in the ground.  Yet if coal has no intrinsic value, is it the use, that is, its instrumental value that determines its value?  And is that value determined by human benefit?   We then have at least two ethical principles at play: intrinsic value and, say, instrumental value to human benefit.

If everything in the world is to have intrinsic value, does this mean that everything has equal value?  In Canada, bears are recognised as having the right to live in wilderness areas unmolested by humans.  If a bear makes a nuisance in an urban area, it is either caught and transported to a wilderness area, or shot.  But if a bear attacks a human in a wilderness area, particularly if it is a mother bear with cubs, if the human is injured or killed, no action is taken against the bear. Here bears are given moral value over human life.  But the same does not apply to opossums in New Zealand: when they destroy trees, are culled. 

In New Zealand the moral domain has been extended to include many aspects of non-human life.  There are a number of established areas where non-human interests are recognised in New Zealand.  It is illegal to abuse domestic and farm animals [38].  There is a Wildlife Act [39] regulating the behaviour towards animals, birds, and aquatic life. It is recognised that there is a need for the protection of a number of non-domestic animals and birds, and plants:  the Department of Conservation has active programmes to these ends [40].  New Zealand has recognised the interests of trees, such as kauri, and other trees that we give protection from opossums [41].  There is recognition given to endangered species, such as the Maūi Dolphin.  New Zealand has acknowledged the need for protection of wilderness locations, such as national parks. 

If there is a need to not only consider individuals but ecosytems: can the protection of some ecosystems take priority over individuals, such as hungry humans?  In order to preserve endangered species it may be necessary to protect the natural ecosystems in which they live, to the consequence of humans dying.  Yet that area could be used to grow food for human consumption.  Are there not times when human life should not take priority?  We use animals and plants for our benefit, and animals use other animals when they are part of the food chain.  What significance does their intrinsic value play in their moral worth? Taylor states that there is inherent worth in every living organism, but accepts medical treatment for humans where millions of bacteria may die for one human life [42].  He also accepts that the infliction of pain makes it worse to kill animals than plants.  If the ethical domain includes everything, and everything has equal moral value, yet we want to recognise that certain actions take priority over others, then how do we make moral decisions based solely on the intrinsic value of everything?  We hence have a principle that is too general to be of practical use [43]. 

So, we can conclude by saying that the principle that all forms of life have moral worth, regardless of their utility to humans, does not pass Step 1 (does the theory make sense? Is it comprehensive and consistent?)  It cannot provide a principle or set of principles describing an acceptable human-Earth relationship on which policies can be developed for organisations such as banks.  Does this mean that we have to resort to an environmental ethic that is based solely on how it benefits human life?  It depends on how ‘benefit’ is defined.  If it is defined in narrow economic terms, with traditional cost benefit analysis and all the unacceptable assumptions that underpin such an analysis, or reliance on boosting GDP with similar conceptual limitations, then that will just retain all the weaknesses that have seen significant degradation to the ecosystems on which life, including human life, depend. 

But if we understand benefit in a much wider sense, such as O’Neill argues, then it can take us quite a way forward [44].  O’Neill takes Aristotle’s account of the relationship of friendship to human flourishing – to lack friends is to lack part of what makes for a flourishing human existence – and extends it. For a large number of, although not all, individual living things and biological collectives, we should recognise and promote their flourishing as an end in itself.  If biological collectives includes the ecosystem and the processes within which the organisms exist, then it will include water and many of the non-human non-organisms that in instrumental terms we wish to give value to. The best human life is one that includes an awareness of and practical concern with the goods and entities on the non-human world.

Jamieson states that we find meaning in our lives in the context of relationships to humans, other animals, the rest of nature, and the world generally.  This involves balancing such goods as self-expression, responsibility to others, joyfulness, commitment, attunement to reality and openness to new experiences.  He says respect for nature is an important virtue that we should cultivate as part of an ethics for the Anthropocene.  Respecting nature is respecting ourselves [45].

An Environmental Ethic with General and Specific Principles

It was noted above that ANZ’s Code of Conduct is limited to human-human responsibilities. What would a possible environmental ethic component look like that is applicable to all organisations (not just banks).  A draft ethic is described below, taking the relevant section (Section II) from the Earth Charter as a staring point [46], and using the conclusions from the above discussion.

An Environmental Ethic

General Principle
Respect and care for the Earth and its ecological systems by living within the energy and material capacity of the Earth [47] to support human and other forms of life, encourage resilience, and take responsibility as stewards of the Earth (kaitiakitanga).

Specific Principles

1      Protect and restore the resilience of Earth’s ecological systems, with special concern for biological diversity and the natural processes that sustain life.
a.     Adopt at all levels sustainable development plans and regulations that make environmental conservation and rehabilitation integral to all development initiatives.
b.    Establish and safeguard viable nature and biosphere reserves, including wild lands and marine areas, to protect Earth’s life support systems, maintain biodiversity, and preserve our natural heritage.
c.     Promote the recovery of endangered species and ecosystems.
d.     Control and eradicate non-native or genetically modified organisms harmful to native species and the environment, and prevent introduction of such harmful organisms.
e.     Manage the use of renewable resources such as water, soil, forest products, and marine life in ways that do not exceed rates of regeneration and that protect the health of ecosystems.
f.      Manage the extraction and use of non-renewable resources such as minerals and fossil fuels in ways that minimise depletion and cause no serious environmental damage, and equal the rate at which renewable substitutes are developed by human invention and investment.

2      Prevent harm as the best method of environmental protection and, when knowledge is limited, apply a precautionary approach.
a.     Take action to avoid the possibility of serious or irreversible environmental harm even when scientific knowledge is incomplete or inconclusive.
b.    Place the burden of proof on those who argue that a proposed activity will not cause significant harm, and make the responsible parties liable for environmental harm.
c.     Ensure that decision making addresses the cumulative, long-term, indirect, long distance, and global consequences of human activities.
d.     Prevent pollution of any part of the environment and allow no build-up of radioactive, toxic, or other hazardous substances.
e.     Avoid military activities damaging to the environment.

3      Adopt patterns of production, consumption, and reproduction that safeguard Earth’s regenerative capacities.
a.     Reduce, reuse, and recycle the materials used in production and consumption systems, and ensure that residual waste can be assimilated by ecological systems.
b.    Act with restraint and efficiency when using energy so that its use is within the Earth’s limits, and rely increasingly on renewable energy sources such as solar and wind.
c.     Promote the development, adoption, and equitable transfer of environmentally sound technologies.
d.     Internalise the full environmental and social costs of goods and services in the selling price, and enable consumers to identify products that meet the social and environmental standards compatible with this ethic.
e.     Ensure universal access to health care that fosters reproductive health and responsible reproduction.
f.      Adopt lifestyles that emphasise the quality of life and material sufficiency in a finite world.
g.     Recognise that in applying these principles, there will be conflicts between human and some forms of non-human life, and in attempting to resolve these, challenge whether and how the human intervention increases human flourishing.

4      Advance the study of ecological sustainability and promote the open exchange and wide application of the knowledge acquired.
a.     Support international scientific and technical cooperation on sustainability, with special attention to the needs of developing nations.
b.    Recognise and preserve the traditional knowledge and spiritual wisdom in all cultures that contribute to environmental protection and human well-being.
c.     Ensure that information of vital importance to human health and environmental protection, including genetic information, remains available in the public domain.
d.     Require all organisations (public, private, and civil society agencies) to publically report and account for their environmental impact with an independent audit, how they have integrated this ethic into their culture and behaviour, and report on their plans and strategies to bring their behaviour in line with this ethic.
Comment On the Proposed Ethic

Respect means to show consideration for, show regard for, take into consideration, take into account, make allowances for, take cognisance of, observe, pay heed/attention to, bear in mind, be mindful of, be heedful of.
Care means the the provision of what is necessary for the health, welfare, maintenance, and protection of someone or something.  The World Charter for Nature states Nature shall be respected and its essential processes shall not be impaired [48]. Carson recommends that we respect nature, as does Lovelock.  The Earth Charter uses a number of concepts including respect, ecological integrity, and care.  I do not prefer ecological integrity for the reasons in disagreeing with Leopold’s Land Ethic.  I have used resilience instead of stability.  I have included a stewardship responsibility to recognise the influence humankind has.

Herman Daly [49] proposes three rules for an economics based on modern science. The Output rule states that wastes should be kept within the assimilative capacity of the local environment.  The Input Rule states that the harvesting rates of renewable inputs shall not exceed the regenerative capacity of the natural system that generates them.  The Third Rule says that the Non-renewable depletion rate shall equal the rate at which renewable substitutes are developed by human invention and investment. The Input Rule is covered in 1e, and the Output Rule in 3a (but with a note to Earth’s limits added).  The Third Rule is covered in 1f but equal the rate at which renewable substitutes are developed by human invention and investment is added.

The Ethic recognises that in the General Principle (which includes support human and other forms of life) there are likely times when human and non-human interest will clash.  A paragraph (3g) has been added which includes - in attempting to resolve these, challenge whether and how the human intervention increases human flourishing.  An extra paragraph has also been added (4d) that requires public accountability and reporting.  There have been some other minor changes: 3e is strengthened by making standards compatible with this ethic.  This is because many of the standards used in the financial and business world are not valid measures, and used to paint a PR picture that obscures the reality.  The use of the notion of sustainability is a good example of how standards have been enfeebled.

Implications for ANZ (and banks generally)

The financial and banking sector includes a culture of selfishness and greed, and generally ignores social and environmental threats. David Rubenstein [50] , the billionaire co-founder and co-CEO of the Carlyle Group, stated that the general theory in investing is that the highest returns go to those who are unencumbered by sustainability or other environmental and social constraints.  In pursuing investment returns banks have not shown much regard for ethical standards.  The emphasis is on short-termism, and inadequate penalties to punish wrongdoing, incentivise rather than discourage, and the continuance of “business-as-usual”.  In 2011 the head of Aviva Investors in London, Paul Abberley, attacked the City for failing to rise to the challenge of climate change and other key sustainability issues. He said the financial system needed reforming because the City was ‘amoral’ and that investors were not willing to walk away from profitable investment opportunities, even when it was clear they caused damage to the environment or the social fabric of society. Abberley said financial institutions are riddled with climate change sceptics and investment professionals who are dismissive of important social issues such as labour rights [51].

In March 2012, Greg Smith, Goldman Sachs executive director and head of the firm’s United States equity derivatives business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa announced that he was leaving the firm. I believe I have worked here long enough to understand the trajectory of its culture, its people and its identity. And I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it. To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of the client continue to be side lined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money. …Today, many of these leaders display a Goldman Sachs culture quotient of exactly zero percent. I attend derivatives sales meetings where not one single minute is spent asking questions about how we can help clients. It’s purely about how we can make the most possible money off of them [52].

In the UK the 2012 Kay Review concluded that UK equity markets were not as effective as they should be in achieving their core purpose of enhancing the long term performance of companies and enabling savers to implement their financial plans.  The problem is short-termism through misalignment of incentives within the investment chain. The Review identified the need to encourage a change of philosophy and culture that restores relationships of trust and confidence [53].

A recent Royal Commision in Australia was told that ANZ Bank ignored repeated requests from the corporate regulator to compensate thousands of customers inappropriately sold savings account loans [54].  Criticism was not confined to ANZ with all major banks showing a lack of ethical behaviour [55], although it is not expected that the New Zealand branches will have shown to have misbehaved to the same extent.
They are investing in fossil fuels with ANZ being the worst in a table showing investments since 2008 [56].  They have recognised the need to move to a low carbon economy, but much of bank’s behaviour, codes, standards and strategies are disjointed, inconsistent and inadequate.  It is ironic that the criticism of the Royal Commission contrasts with the Bank’s statement that ANZ are creating a stronger sense of purpose, ethics and fairness, and investing in leaders who can help sense and navigate a rapidly changing environment.

If Australian and New Zealand banks adopted an environmental ethic along the lines of the above proposal, it will involve a profound and major cultural and organisational change. Approval needs to be given to the Australian banks for their commitment to help clients move to a low carbon economy, especially when the present Australian Government is hostile to any significant action on climate warming. But if an environmental ethic as proposed was adopted if would be initially very difficult for such sectors as the mining, transport, air travel and parts of tourism related to air travel, and many parts of the manufacturing industries, and transitions would not be easy.  There are many interests vested in the status quo.   Conformity to Daly’s rules (paragraphs 1e, 1f, and 3a in the proposed Ethic) would be difficult for many of these industries. This does not make it any less important.  One suggestion to get started: appoint at a very senior level, a Nature Ombudsman, or Spokesperson for Nature, with access to the Board, who can advocate and assist in how to implement an environmental ethic.  The need to change is very great when we take into account the fact that climate warming is having a significant impact already,[57] and is also certain to become worse. Other aspects including water, food supplies, atmospheric and water borne toxins, and species loss are just as critical. The window for positive intervention is very small.


In 1992 some 1,700 of the world's leading scientists, including the majority of Nobel laureates in the sciences, issued the World Scientists' Warning to Humanity (Union of Concerned Scientists, 1992). The scientists state that the earth is finite. Its ability to absorb wastes and destructive effluent is finite. Its ability to provide food and energy is finite. Its ability to provide for growing numbers of people is finite. And we are fast approaching many of the earth's limits. Current economic practices which damage the environment, in both developed and underdeveloped nations, cannot be continued without the risk that vital global systems will be damaged beyond repair. Since 1992 the condition of many of Earth’s systems have deteriorated further, the scientific community have continued to voice their concerns, yet the changes needed to avert the threat to human life on Earth have not been made.  In November 2017, 15,364 scientists signed a second notice reiterating their earlier concerns [58].

At the end of the First Statement they wrote:  A new ethic is required – a new attitude towards discharging our responsibility for caring for ourselves and for the earth.  We must recognise the earth’s limited capacity to provide for us.  We must recognise its fragility.  We must no longer allow it to be ravaged.  This ethic must motivate a great movement, convincing reluctant leaders and reluctant governments and reluctant peoples themselves to effect the needed changes [59]. It is now time for all individuals and organisations in the public, private and civil society sectors to adopt an environnmental ethic that respects and cares for our world, and that can contribute to a future that has some hope for humanity.

Appendix 1: ANZ Bank’s Code of Conduct [60].

• Create trust, confidence and goodwill with customers
• Always put the interests and needs of customers first when providing advice on products and services • Undertake our duties with care and diligence
• Help protect ANZ, its customers and our community against financial crimes including fraud, money laundering, terrorist financing or breaches of economic sanctions
• Behave professionally and appropriately at work and work‑related functions
• Only provide advice to customers that we are qualified and authorised to provide
• Never engage in conduct (including outside of work) that may cause damage to ANZ’s reputation or is incompatible with our employment

• Are honest and transparent in our dealings with others
• Never act illegally or conceal breaches of our Code (or help anyone else to do so)
• Use ANZ technology, systems, assets, information and funds appropriately and for approved purposes
• Ensure any expenditure is allowable and reasonable

• Treat customers, colleagues, suppliers and other stakeholders with respect and dignity
• Never harass, bully or unlawfully discriminate
• Make employment decisions based on merit
• Create a safe working environment. If we see something – we do something

• Don’t make or receive improper payments, benefits or gains
• Never do anything that puts, or appears to put, a personal interest before those of customers or ANZ
• Never process our own transactions or those of friends or relatives
• Disclose relationships, or associations with customers, suppliers or other parties that might give rise to a conflict of interest
• Obtain approval for and record all donations, sponsorships, or financial contributions
• Only accept gifts, reward or entertainment in line with ANZ policy
• Never trade in securities with inside information, or pass such information to others
• Seek approval for any non-ANZ work (paid or unpaid), business interest or directorship

• Only use or disclose confidential or personal information for proper purposes, where authorised, or as required under law
• Only provide private or confidential information to other employees where it is required for work purposes
• Never provide information about customers or colleagues to third parties, including family and friends unless provided for or required under law
• Never allow others to log on to ANZ systems using our personal credentials

• Know and comply with the laws, policies and procedures that apply to our roles
• Complete all mandatory training as directed by ANZ
• Seek guidance if unsure whether or how a particular law, policy or procedure applies
• Immediately disclose any criminal charges or convictions to line management

• Immediately report any dishonest or unethical behaviour by others (including colleagues, customers or suppliers)
• Encourage people to speak up and don’t victimise anyone who does
• Report suspected breaches and concerns to line management, People Assist, Operational Risk and Compliance or to a Whistleblower Protection Officer. If we see something – we say something

[1] Leopold, A. 1949.  A Sand County Almanac. New York: Oxford.
[2] a) Grove, R. 1995. Green Imperialism: Colonial Expansion, Tropical Island Edens, and the Origins of Environmentalism, 1600-1860.   Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press.
b) Guha, R. 2000.  Environmentalism A Global History.  NY: Longman.
[3] Passmore, J. 1974.  Man’s responsibility for Nature. London: Duckworth.
[4] Carson, R. 1963. Silent Spring.  London: Hamish Hamilton.
[5] Singer, P. 1975.  Animal Liberation. HarperCollins
[6] Naess, A. 2003.  The Deep Ecological Movement: Some Philosophical Aspects.  In Environmental Ethics Ed Light A and Rolston III H.  Blackwell.
[7] Callicott J B. http://jbcallicott.weebly.com/
[8] Taylor, P W. 1986. Respect for Nature: A Theory of Environmental Ethics.  University Press
[9] Roulson III, H. Environmental Ethics. Temple University Press.
[10] Palmer, C. 2003. An Overview of Environmental Ethics. Ch 1 in Light, A and Rolston III, H eds.  Environmental Ethics.  Oxford: Blackwell.
[11] Hursthouse, R.  2007. Environmental Virtue Ethics In Working Virtue. Ed Walker R L and Ivanhoe PJ. OUP
[12] Singer, P.  2011.  Practical Ethics. CUP.
[13] a) Shue, H. 1995. Ethics, the Environment and the Changing International Order. International Affairs. 71, 3, pp 453-461.
b) Shue, H. 1999.  Global Environment and International Inequity.  International Affairs. 75, 3, pp 531-545.
c) Shue, H. 2011. Human rights, climate change, and the trillionth ton.  In The Ethics of Climate Change ed Arnold D G. Cambridge University Press Ch 14 pp292=314.

[14] Retrieved from http://shareholder.anz.com/sites/default/files/code_of_conduct_aug17.pdf.  ANZ is not singled out as special: any of the major Australian banks could have been chosen.
[15] Retrieved from http://www.anz.com/about-us/corporate-sustainability/environmental-sustainability/
[16] Retrieved from http://www.anz.com/about-us/corporate-sustainability/employees/human-rights/
[18] Johnson, R.  (2008).  Kant's Moral Philosophy.  The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.  Retrieved from http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2014/entries/kant-moral/
[19] a) Bentham, J. 1948, Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, Basil Blackwell.
b) Mill, J S. 1998. Utilitarianism OUP.
[20] a) Rawls, J. 1971. A Theory of Justice, M A: Harvard U P.
  c) Nussbaum, M.  The Enduring Significance of John Rawls. Retrieved from http://evatt.org.au/papers/enduring-significance-john-rawls.html
[21] Aristotle, trans Thomson, J.A.K. 1948. Ethics. London: Penguin.
[22] a) Locke, J. 2003. Two Treatises of Government and A Letter Concerning Toleration. Connecticut: Yale University Press;
 b) Tuckness, A. 2005. John Locke. Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy. Retrieved from //plato.stanford.edu/entries/locke/.
[23] The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 1948. Retrieved from www.un.org/Overview/rights.html.
[24] Quoted in Palmer, C. 2011. Does Nature Matter in the Ethics of Climate Change?  Ch 13 in Arnold, D 2011.  The Ethics of Climate Change.  NY: Cambridge U P.
[25] Cronin, W. 1996. Ed.  Uncommon Ground. Norton & Cpy.
[26] Lovelock, J. 2016.  Gaia. 2nd ed. OUP.
[27] Latour, B. 2017. Facing Gaia: eight lectures on the new climatic regime. Polity. 
[28] Smil, V.  Dec 2011.  Harvesting the Biosphere : the Human Impact.
Population and Development Review.  37/4 613-36.
[29] Hamilton, C. 2017. Defiant Earth. Polity.

[30] See Bloomsbury Anthology of Aesthetics ed Tanke, J and C McQuillan.  London: Bloomsbury; and Routledge Companion to Aesthetics ed Berys Gaut, B and  D Lopes 2013. 3rd ed. Routledge

[31] In Levinson, J (ed.), 1998. Aesthetics and Ethics: Essays at the Intersection. Cambridge University Press. pp. 227--256
[32] The Sacred Depths of Nature.  1998. Oxford University Press.
[33] Naess, A.  1986.  The Deep Ecological Movement Some Philosophical Aspects. Philosophical Inquiry 8.
[34] Taylor, P. 1986.  Respect for Nature. Princeton University Press.
[35] Schweitzer, A.  1929.  Civilisation and Ethics.  A&C Black.
[36] Rolston, H.   2012.   Environmental Ethics. Temple Univ Press
[37] Earth Charter.  http://earthcharter.org/discover/the-earth-charter/
[38] Retrieved from https://www.mpi.govt.nz/law-and-policy/legal-overviews/animal-welfare/
[39] Wildlife Act. Retrieved from http://legislation.govt.nz/act/public/1953/0031/60.0/DLM276814.html
[40]  Retrieved from https://www.doc.govt.nz/our-work/protecting-species/
[42] Taylor, P. 1986.  Respect for Nature. Princeton University Press.
[43] Cochrane makes similar criticism of Naess’ position.  Cochrane, A.  Environmental Ethics.  Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.  https://www.iep.utm.edu/envi-eth/
[44] O’Neill.  The Varieties on Intrinsic Interest.  Ch 10 in Light, A and Rolston III, H eds.  Environmental Ethics.  Oxford: Blackwell.
[45] Jamieson.  2014.  Reason in a Dark Time.  US: OUP
[46]  Retrieved from http://earthcharter.org/discover/the-earth-charter/
[47] Jamieson states that the challenge we face is to live in productive relationship with the dynamic systems that govern a changing planet. In Jamieson.  2014.  Reason in a Dark Time.  US: OUP
[48] World Charter for Nature. 1982. Retrieved from http://www.un.org/documents/ga/res/37/a37r007.htm
[49] Daly, H. 1991. Steady-State Economics. 2nd ed, Island Press;
   Daly, H. 1996. Beyond Growth. Boston MA: Beacon Press;
   Daly, H. 2007. Ecological Economics and Sustainable Development. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.
[50] James Fallows.  Nov 2015.  The planet – Saving, Capitalism-Subverting, Surprising Lucrative Investment Secrets of Al Gore. The Atlantic.  Retrieved from
[51] Confino, J. 2011. Aviva seeks to change City's unsustainable habits. Guardian 4 Feb 2011. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/aviva-chief-city-failure-sustainability
[52] Smith, G. 2012. Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs March 14, 2012 NY Times Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/14/opinion/why-i-am-leaving-goldmansachs.html?pagewanted=all

[54] Danckert, S. March 2018.  ANZ ignored regulator's pleas to compensate customers: commission. Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from https://www.smh.com.au/business/banking-and-finance/anz-ignored-regulator-s-pleas-to-compensate-customers-commission-20180320-p4z5bs.html

[55] Gareth Vaughan April 23, 2018. Despite the revelations from Australia's Financial Services Royal Commission going from bad to worse, don't expect the local offshoots of Australia's big banks to face the same scrutiny in NZ. Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from https://www.smh.com.au/business/banking-and-finance/anz-ignored-regulator-s-pleas-to-compensate-customers-commission-20180320-p4z5bs.html

[56] Market Forces.  Fossil fuels – where does your bank stand? Retrieved from https://www.marketforces.org.au/info/compare-bank-table/

[57] Carrington, D. 27 July, 2018. Extreme global weather is 'the face of climate change' says leading scientist. Guardian.   Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jul/27/extreme-global-weather-climate-change-michael-mann

[58] World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice

Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article/67/12/1026/4605229
[59] Union of Concerned Scientists. 1992. World Scientists' Warning to Humanity. 
Retrieved from http://www.ucsusa.org/about/1992-world-scientists.html#.VHuZd6SUc5k
[60] ANZ Bank’s Code of Conduct.  Retrieved from http://shareholder.anz.com/sites/default/files/code_of_conduct_aug17.pdf