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Cover Story

1Sustainability Models

Environmental certifications and good production practices are increasingly required in the business world, mainly abroad, and encourage Brazil and Canada to exchange experiences and create new sustainable solutions in different market segments

Denise Berto

In recent years, Brazilian emphasis on biofuel is carefully being watched by developed countries, interested in incorporating alternative sources to their energy matrix. According to UNICA - Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association, in 2009 national inventory levels reached 27.5 billion liters, a 22% increase in comparison with the previous year. Apart from diversifying supply sources, biofuels reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming. If before sustainability was a matter for specialists, now it is a management strategy. Privileged due to its natural resources and viewed as an agricultural powerhouse, Brazil is a reference for sustainable solutions.

In searching for answers for the industry, Canada is intensifying bilateral exchange. At the beginning of 2010, 13 technicians and executives of the Advanced Leadership Program (ALP) visited UNICA to understand the biofuel process. “They wanted to learn about the industry’s development in Brazil, where 90% of all vehicles produced are dual-fuel powered”, says Adhemar Altieri, the entity’s Corporate Communications director.

1To be environmentally correct and economically feasible is the challenge of sustainable companies. The objective is to achieve competitiveness, although few people really know how to accomplish this. Therefore, the exchange of experience is necessary. Walfredo Schindler, director of the FBDS – Brazilian Foundation for Sustainable Development, says that implementing sustainable measures is equivalent to surviving, mainly for companies that depend on the international market. “The requirements are increasingly stricter with respect to environmental preservation certifications and good production practices”, assures Schindler.

Brazil is implementing the concept in various areas. In the São Paulo Stock Exchange (BOVESPA), for example, the Business Sustainability Index (ISE) lists companies “committed to social responsibility and business sustainability”. According to the Ministry of the Environment, almost R$ 3 billion are saved annually in the country through recycling, an amount that could reach R$ 8 billion if all residues and sanitary landfill content were reutilized, according to the Applied Economics Research Institute (IPEA). The potential is large and sustainable innovations favor all aspects, reducing production costs. Experienced in this field, Canada takes advantage of the benefits and shares them, as exemplified by the food industry.

To implement sustainable measures today amounts to surviving in the market

1In order to­­­ support sustainability of small and medium size producers, the government of Alagoas applies concepts from Quebec. The State’s secretary of Science, Technology and Innovation, Janesmar Cavalcanti, tells that the exchange program began with the visit of a state delegation to the province’s agro-food center and to companies in the town of Saint-Hyacinthe. “These companies originated from a cooperation and integration model with universities and research centers”, she explains. In 2008, Canadian authorities visited the Arapiraca e Batalha center in the State of Alagoas, budgeted at R$ 12 million. “The objective is to provide support in innovation and product and process development, so that Alagoas can be competitive”, emphasizes Cavalcanti.

Private initiative, in turn, applies sustainability to new products. Canadian company Denovo-Nutrition launched technology for animal nutrition: the use of polyfenols in making animal feed. Fabiano Coser, director of the Brazilian Swine Breeder Association (ABCS), says the innovation reduces the use of antibiotics for growth, eliminating residues in meat. “The products that reduce the need for the component surely attract exporters”, explains Coser.

Contributing to Nature’s balance, energy saving sources motivated Anthony Loureiro to partner with Canadian company Naanovo Energy, in what is known as Naanovo Brazil. The executive tells that the company offers the Waste-to-Energy (WtE) technology (incineration of urban residues with energy generation and Solar Maax (solar energy), in a business activity that generates almost R$ 50 million. “We will install a solar collector to supply to the first solar thermal plant of Brazil, planned for Coremas in the State of Paraíba”, informs Loureiro.

Specialized in the manufacture and distribution of chemical products, Chemflex is also a reference for sustainability. “We offer our clients ecologically correct products and technology to optimize what already exists”, says executive Gilmar Negri. As a part of this strategy, the company partners with Canadian company Siltech Corporation, of Toronto, a manufacturer of special surfactants derived from silicone, focusing on the sustainable use of raw materials for cosmetics. Through Siltech, silicones made with a minimum of chemical components were brought to Brazil. The major innovation consists of the models that allow the use of natural oils, without the need of employing emulsification based on oil derivatives. Thus, Chemflex has an ecologically viable portfolio.

Braskem – the largest manufacturer of thermoplastic resins in the Americas and one of the corporations included in BOVESPA’s sustainability index – created a program to allow for sustainability in its units, conciliating different production practices. Braskem+ provides support so that the organization can improve the performance of assets and processes, warranting the increase in efficiency and the reduction of costs. In addition, the group created an international stamp - I’m green - for products made from renewable sources, that identifies polymers produced from renewable raw materials. “Eco-efficiency indicators improved from 2002 to 2009. Residues decreased by 61%, effluent by 40%, water consumption by 19%, and energy consumption by 12%. Gas emission rates also declined. Apart from reducing the impact on operations, these numbers increase our image recognition”, emphasizes Jorge Soto, director of Sustainable Development.

Additional visibility is one of the main indirect gains of sustainability.  In 2009, Gerdau received awards for its initiatives. José Paulo Soares Martins, executive director of Instituto Gerdau, tells that “products for civil construction in Brazil were awarded the Ecological Stamp, a certification granted by the Falcão Bauer Quality Institute, an unprecedented fact in this country”. The director observes that environmental concerns are the company’s priority. All units of the group follow strict procedures that comprise the Environment Management System (SGA). Currently, 41 plants have been certified according to the international ISO 14001 norm (for corporate environmental management), whereas all other certifications are in progress. ”Our carbon emissions rate was 70% lower than the industry average in 2009”, concludes Martins.

Buildings with no impact
Brazil and Canada also find opportunities to exploit in architecture. Advanced in the planning of buildings considered sustainable, Canadian architecture may be an important means of recognition of Brazilian professionals. For Ricardo Vasconcelos, managing partner in the firm RVA Arquitetura, with activities in the project area, and GreenWorks, engaged in consulting in sustainable construction activities, Brazil lags behind the world. “Ours is a cultural problem. We must build awareness not only of large companies, but mainly of the small and medium size ones, most of which are still alienated from this essential movement for the planet’s future”, ponders Vasconcelos. He emphasizes that civil construction is one of the sectors with the most environmental impact on the planet: it accounts for 30% of the greenhouse effect, produces 2/3 of solid waste and uses 13% of the water consumed in the world. “Natural light is the key aspect of a sustainable project. To allow sunlight to enter is the first step in this kind of building”, explains Vasconcelos.

Green Cities
The international consulting firm Mercer ranked the planet’s “greenest” cities, based on six main indicators: access to water, supply of drinking water, trash collecting, sewage system, air pollution and traffic. In this contest, Calgary, the capital of the Province of Alberta, tops the list, ahead of Honolulu (United States) and Ottawa, the Canadian capital. The advantage of Canada over other countries is even more remarkable given that Montreal (13th), in Quebec, and Vancouver (14th), in British Columbia, also appear among the 20 first cities. Brazil, however, is not even represented among the first 50.

Calgary (Canada)
Honolulu (USA)
Ottawa (Canada)
Helsinki (Finland)
Wellington (New Zealand)
Minneapolis (USA)
Adelaide (Australia)
Copenhagen (Denmark)
Kobe (Japan)
10º Oslo (Norway)

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