Production and preservation

Business groups accountable for 45% of Brazilian GDP advocate sustainable growth


by Andréa Ciaffone

Taking care of the planet is the best deal, and it is fair to think that more and more companies know this. Marina Grossi, president of the Brazilian Business Council for Sustainable Development (CEBDS), is one of the most representative voices to highlight the importance of the union between economics and ecology. Bringing together about 60 of the largest business groups operating in Brazil, with revenues equivalent to about 45% of GDP and responsible for more than 1 million direct jobs, CEBDS, founded in 1997, is a pioneer in the struggles in favor of sustainability, biodiversity, responsible water use and positive social impact. Among its challenges are global warming, practices that destroy natural heritage and human rights violations. It was the first entity in the country to defend the concept of the triple bottom line of sustainability, which is how the objective of achieving good results in economic, social and environmental terms became known. The same priorities are aligned with the Environmental and Social Governance (ESG) policies, which have become one of the priority issues for companies operating in both Brazil and Canada.

CEBDS is the representative in Brazil of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), with approximately 60 national and regional boards of 22 industrial segments in 36 countries of 200 business groups present in all continents. The CEBDS has been highly active in the political scenario. In July 2020, during the severe fires that hit the Pantanal, The Amazon, and The Cerrado, it published the Brazilian Business Sector Communiqué. The document clearly expresses that the possibility of attracting new investments to the country is proportional to the government’s ability to establish a new economic paradigm to reconcile productivity and environmental preservation.
Marina Grossi, amid a busy routine, spoke to Explore about the current events. In the presidency of CEBDS since 2010, the economist has an inspiring path: she was a member of the governing board of the World Bank coalition focused on carbon pricing; from 1997 to 2001. She played the role of Brazil’s negotiator at the Parties’ conference to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (CLIMATE COP). She was the coordinator of the Brazilian Climate Change Forum from 2001 to 2003. She also participated in the negotiations of the Kyoto Protocol. This vast experience surfaced in her statements.

The pandemic’s whole context has made many people stop to think about the current reality, becoming aware of our society’s weaknesses. Would it be possible to believe that people would be more committed to advocating issues such as environmental preservation, diversity, inclusion, conscious consumption, and water care at this point?
The pandemic accelerated a process that was already underway in various sectors of society. It brought about issues the scientists have been alerting for years, as climate change, for example. In this context, I understand that we could expedite this agenda between government offices and companies focusing on the comprehensive eradication of extreme poverty and increased engagement of the private sector in health-related issues. All problems overlooked in recent decades came to light with covid 19. The vulnerability of the population living in poor housing conditions, without running water or sewage, stood out as a broader problem related to our social and environmental interdependence. As a result of the ecological imbalance, the new coronavirus is stark evidence of the need to create a more resilient society. The 2020 Davos Forum had already pointed out the social inequality theme as a priority in this decade to implement SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals), showing awareness that perpetuation of extreme inequalities conspires against political and economic stability.

What is the role of companies in this context? How does CEBDS work become even more crucial?
Business know-how is precious and decisive, mainly to give scale to acceptable practices. The expectation is that this health crisis will also offer the opportunity to accelerate the sustainability agenda and to promote a faster transition to a new low-carbon economy. In other words, a new approach at work and concerning capital, energy, water, and consumption. In this context, CEBDS fulfills the role of advancing this agenda with companies and government agencies. We promote matchmaking between partners and give visibility to companies’ actions to encourage others to do the same. We are redrawing the future vision based on resumption aiming at positive social impacts in the long run.

More and more consumers make their purchasing decisions based on the company’s performance. Is being a company committed to sustainability, therefore, a good deal?
Absolutely. This commitment is a crucial factor for the financial sustainability of the business in the long term. This increased maturity is observed in the European Market, but clearly, it is a growing global trend. Brazilian consumers still privilege product price and convenience. In this process, it is essential to implement public policies to create products and services with competitive prices, fostering low-carbon economic development.

“We are also interested in developing long-term actions to pave the way towards a low-carbon economy”

Is Brazil at risk of economic sanctions connected with the pace of deforestation of its main biomes?
International pressure is a reality from investors and companies that purchase Brazilian products, concerned about national biomes’ deforestation rates. Especially in the Amazon and the Cerrado. The Business Sector Communiqué, launched in July 2020, was a response to this: for the Brazilian business sector, producing and preserving are not antagonistic verbs. In this context, we are particularly concerned about the negative perception of Brazil’s image abroad. Deforestation rates in the Amazon and the enormous potential to affect business development and crucial projects for the country. We are also interested in developing long-term actions to pave the way towards a low-carbon economy after the new coronavirus pandemic is over. The implementation of a carbon market in Brazil is a priority on this agenda.


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