The movement is still rather quiet. Maybe the most switched off consumers have not yet noticed. But a careful look in to the catalogues of Brazilian factories shows that they are starting to move in the direction of greater environmental sustainability in their products.
The green wave has not yet reached all sectors, but Brazilians can already, for example, take care of beauty, sketch on paper, feed themselves, clean their homes, wash their hair and even build their homes in a more sustainable manner.
All of this with not much effort on the side of who buys, requiring just a choosing on market shelves, at the bookshop and at the building material shop.
There, products made by established market brands, using less electricity and water, fewer chemical inputs, lighter packages or recycled items may be found. The main companies responsible for these products are large Brazilian organizations.
Eating yogurt, for example, is a common habit for many Brazilians and one in which industry has placed a green finger. This year, multinational Danone created a new version of the Strawberry Danoninho 360 grams – taking into consideration greater environmental and social sustainability.
The yogurt has a package that is 10% lighter, generating fewer residues, whose production consumes 5% less energy and whose milk has gained quality and productivity, providing further revenues for farmers participating in a sector professionalization program developed by the company.
“This effort is the result of solid Danone engagement to reduce carbon emissions by 30% over four years (2008-2012),” said Rodrigo Chaimovich, the marketing manager at Danoninho, regarding the innovation that the company has been adopting with regard to environmental sustainability.
The Danoninho 360 grams should represent, considering consumption at the Walmart chain alone, an annual economy of 3,280 Kwh of energy, 943 kilograms of packaging material, 184.5 liters of fuel and 635.5 kilograms of carbon emissions.
Suzano, in the area of pulp and paper, a sector that normally does not have a very good name in environmental matters, is working to show its green side. The company has Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification on all its products, showing correct management of the forests it manages.
It has also issued a new version of four of the papers it produces – Alta Alvura, Paperfect, Symetrique and Report Multiuso – with the Carbon Reduction Label. With the stamp, the company shows consumers the impact of greenhouse gas emissions in production and also its engagement to reduce them.
Carbon Reduction Label is obtained as a result of a company program called Carbon Footstep, issued in 2010, in which Suzano measures the emissions of its entire chain, with the objective of reducing them.
“Suzano is the first Brazilian company to receive the stamp on its products in the country. The company objective is to promote the concept throughout Brazil for other companies also to have their products with a calculated Carbon Footstep,” said the executive manager for the paper sector at Suzano, André De Marco.
In the footsteps of Suzano and Danone there are other Brazilian companies trying to make a smaller mark on the life of the planet with their products. Multinational Reckitt Benckiser issued this year line Veja Perfumes Sensações, in two-liter packages, reducing production in one hour, through use of a new formula, and replacing the bulbs in the industrial unit, among other measures.
Another company, Gerdau, a producer of steel and the largest recycler in Latin America, managed to grant many of the factory’s items greater sustainability. The products received the Falcão Bauer Institute Ecological Quality Stamp.
Natura is another Brazilian company that has become more and more evident due to environmental sustainability. Different from a large part of companies, however, Natura turned to the area even before it became fashion and, according to the Business Unit manager at the company, Penelope Uiehara, all products are made following environmental, social and economic principles.
One of the lines, Ekos, was recently renewed with lower emissions. “The new Ekos line has 17% reduction in carbon emissions as against the previous line,” said Penelope. The products reached consumers this month.
The brand has a series of characteristics that make it environmentally sustainable. There is, for example, the use of thinner packages for shampoos, making it possible to squash the package and use the product right to the end, the use of 50% recycled PET and also green plastic (made from ethanol) in packages and cartons (boxes) that use 50% recycled material. The latter, in fact, are only used when the format of the product makes it hard to pack a great volume of items, as is the case with tubes and perfumes.
“The formulas are made using the minimalist concept, not containing what is unnecessary, being highly green, using products from renewable sources, and seeking the greatest percentage of green products in their formulas,” said Penelope.
She explains that the Ekos line follows the same sustainability principles as the remaining Natura line and its great differential is appreciation of traditional culture. In a nutshell, in that line, the company uses bio diverse ingredients that are part of the culture of communities. It tells consumers the stories of these people – who work with cashew and passion fruit, among others.
Some green product developments were the result of a request by one buyer, Walmart. This year, the retail chain promoted the second edition of its Point to Point Sustainability Program, in which it requested that 13 of its suppliers, most already with successful sustainability programs developed, make products with lower environmental impact.
The result was the release of more sustainable products like Veja Perfume Sensações and Danoninho 360 grams, mentioned above, as well as others like Guaraná Antarctica 2 liters, by Ambev, with a package using recycled raw material, and L’Oreal shampoos, conditioners and creams with 21% lighter packages.
Less Is More
Environmentalists recognize these activities, but believe that the industry still needs greater environmental engagement. “More and more products are being made with less material and energy,” said the coordinator of the Social and Environmental Economics Nucleus at the University of São Paulo (USP), Ricardo Abramovay.
He believes, however, that the sector must go ahead and be responsible for its products. “The food industry is responsible for the high rates of obesity in the United States, and the auto industry is responsible for the difficult mobility in cities,” he said, at the Ethos Conference, in São Paulo.
Abramovay stated that the innovation systems in Brazilian industry are not turned to the reduction of energy and materials. “There is another initiative,” he said, regarding the release of products. According to the economist and professor at the Federal University of Pernambuco (UFPE), Clóvis Cavalcanti, Brazil still has much to progress to become environmentally sustainable in the sectors that command the economy.
“It is necessary to reduce waste, increase energy efficiency, economize resources, stop deforestation, etc. All of this requires understanding the part played by ecology in the economic process,” said Cavalcanti.
Cavalcanti mentions two countries, Switzerland and Germany, as examples of places where consumers take into consideration how green products and services they consume are. In Brazil, this share of the population is still small.
Penelope, from Natura, explains that in France, where the company has a shop, the demand for products in the Ekos line is great due to sustainability. In Brazil, it is different.
“People know that the Ekos line comes from nature, but do not know it has these sustainable characteristics, They may know, but this is not the main reason for buying. The main reasons are the functional benefits,” she says, adding that some layers of society already buy due to these causes.
Marco, from Suzano, also said that calculating the carbon footprint or emissions of pollutants, for example, are new to Brazil, and not to Europe.
“In Europe, this scenery is already more consolidated and there are several certified products. If companies mobilize, Brazilian consumers will also start adopting this attitude in the near future,” said the executive.
Environmentalists and economists specialized in the area state that, despite the creation of more sustainable products, it is necessary to reduce consumption, mainly in developed nations.