17 May 2022

Het Nieuwe Instituut launches innovative "Zoöp" governance model for ecological regeneration

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We are delighted to have assisted Het Nieuwe Instituut in its courageous effort to develop an organisational model for ecological regeneration and cooperation between human and other-than-human life. Through the Zoöp model, other-than-human life can be represented within organisations like companies, social and cultural institutions and government agencies.

Why this new model

Other-than-human life includes all life forms that are not human – such as animals, plants, fungi and micro-organisms. For Het Nieuwe Instituut, the global climate crisis and the degradation of ecosystems underline the need to transition from a purely human-centric world view to one that is more inclusive of all life. Inspired by "rights-of-nature" developments – where natural objects are recognised as legal entities – in, for example, New Zealand and Ecuador, Het Nieuwe Instituut and De Brauw set out on a quest to develop a legal and organisational model to give other-than-human life representation.

The result is the "Zoöp" model – a novel governance concept that promotes ecological regeneration in organisations by fostering cooperation between human and other-than-human life. This purpose is laid down in its name: an abbreviation of zoöperation, combining the Greek word for life (zoë) and cooperation.

How does the Zoöp model work

A Zoöp makes the interests of other-than-human life a part of its decision-making process by installing a "Speaker for the Living" as adviser, teacher and observer of the board within the organisation. What's more, a Zoöp commits to evaluating its impact on the ecosystem in order to learn how to become a supportive part of that system. The Zoöp model can be adopted by all organisations wishing to include ecological regeneration in their practice. The Zoönomic Institute is responsible for the certification of organisations as Zoöps and also provides a knowledge-sharing platform for all Zoöps. Their aim is, among other things, to make Zoöp a relevant indicator of quality in terms of ESG standards.

If you are interested in how to become a Zoöp, or would like more information about the Zoöp model, please see the Zoöp website.

Our pro bono practice

This innovative matter is part of our Pro Bono practice. De Brauw lawyer Matthijs Verwer, who has been part of the team working on the project since its inception, reflects on the fruitful collaboration with Het Nieuwe Instituut:

"The mission of Het Nieuwe Instituut to develop a model for the representation of other-than-human life within human organisations was very ambitious from the get-go. Over a period of two years, we actively participated in the organic development of this concept. Het Nieuwe Instituut's ideas on what a Zoöp should be like and the position on how this could be implemented in a legal and organisational model were constantly evolving. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to contribute to this process. In the evening of Friday, 22 April, De Brauw attended the launch of the Zoöp model and the inauguration of Het Nieuwe Instituut as the first Zoöp. It was marvellous to see how the model is attracting great interest. Obviously, the concept is gaining traction, as shown by recent news coverage (article in Dutch newspaper Trouw) and the fact that over 20 organisations in the Netherlands, but also Belgium, Germany, Italy and Slovenia have already signed up to become Zoöps. I am happy to see this important concept to promote ecological regeneration take off and wish the Zoöp model all the success in the world."

The other De Brauw team members included Constantijn Voogt, Roos van der Poel, Pim Siemons, Bogdan Nae and Bojana Prlja.