Let’s traverse the globe to Brazil, home to the world’s largest rainforest. Brazil has a history of biodiversity, agroforestry and co-living with different cultures, so ESG practices are not entirely new.
While strong trends have begun to emerge around sustainable tourism, this is coupled with a history of extractivism – the hyper-extraction of benefits from nature for commercial gain. Exporting these benefits has resulted in a huge export industry for Brazil. All the same, there is a large sense of gratitude for what nature has provided to the country, and for a long time it has felt like an endless paradise that could not get depleted. However, recent extreme weather events have started building greater and greater urgency around the issue of climate change and loss of biodiversity.
We see this conflict when we plot Brazil on the three cultural ESG dimensions. The country’s relationship with nature is closer to one of co-existence but its history of extractivism brings in an element of conquest and control. In terms of who Brazil sees as responsible for taking the lead on ESG, people look towards institutions and the government for guidance. When it comes to rewards, because Brazil is on the cusp of progress and development, there is a skew towards short-term gains that benefit my world. However, there is a growing acknowledgement that something more needs to be done so that the country’s abundance is preserved and the world is restored and repaired for future generations.
Concern about the environment began to increase after there was a general improvement in the living conditions of the average Brazilians (the middle-class boom). But sustainability is still an agenda more adherent to the middle/upper class, with the working class more focused on more urgent day-to-day issues like income, employment, basic sanitation etc. Years of underdevelopment have made the population care less for the environment and more for aspects relating to basic needs. Now a new consensus is emerging and the idea that preserving the environment is also preserving life is gaining traction.
There is a growing acknowledgement that something more needs to be done so that the country’s abundance is preserved and the world is restored and repaired for future generations.
Across different Ipsos surveys, social inequality and poverty is consistently one of Brazil’s top concerns, with climate change ranking nearer to the bottom. This reflects Brazil’s collectivist culture and the importance of the S pillar of ESG. More recently, Brazil has also seen a growing focus on G. Brazil’s last government was so flagrant in its disregard for even basic ESG compliance and in its apathy to heightened public perceptions of corruption that suddenly even the average person became aware that ESG is no longer an area where neglect is acceptable. There is a minimum level of compliance that everybody needs to meet for ESG measures today to avoid alarming fallouts.
One of our experts from São Paulo spoke about an occasion in the middle of the day in the peak of the summer of 2019, where the sky suddenly darkened and sunlight was eclipsed across the city. This was later revealed to be the side effect of heavy smoke from an unprecedented number of wildfires burning across the Amazon rainforest thousands of miles away. The event had a symbolic impact on Brazilians and very quickly brought home the pressing reality of extreme climate change, creating an urgency to act.
The Lula government took office last year with optimism and a commitment to strong measures to support sustainability. They have prioritised environment protection over economic growth, engendering more energy and positivity around ESG measures today. *
Brazil’s history of extractivism has required new and innovative ways to manage conflicting demands. On the one hand, it feels foolish to let go of the huge economic growth linked to exports, which in turn is seen to enable social sustainability. At the same time, the environment must be conserved and protected. As a result, we see growing trends of investment in biofuels and renewable sources of energy. This seems to show that Brazil is putting a balanced focus on each of the three pillars of E S and G, and a synergy in the way that ESG initiatives are working together. Historically Brazil has been a country of sustainable farming, community support for people, land management – all of that is now coming back into prominence. Since his election in October 2022, President Lula has committed to a net-zero deforestation agenda, annulled a decree that encouraged mining on protected areas, and created a Ministry for Indigenous Peoples.
When it comes to successful ESG brand campaigns in the country, a large proportion skew towards the environment: carbon neutrality, recycling, declaring ethical and sustainable sourcing, preserving biodiversity – even in sectors like mining, which are now investing in sustainable mining practices. But there is also a significant focus on social campaigns encouraging social inclusion and antidiscrimination e.g. supporting single mothers, women and LGBT rights.
Table of contents
- ESG across borders: the cultural context
- "Sustainability": All on the same page?
- Equality Kaleidoscope
- The climate of climate change opinion
- Applying cultural transferability analysis to ESG
- ESG across borders: United States of America
- ESG across borders: India
- ESG across borders: Brazil
- ESG across borders: South Africa
- ESG across borders: China
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