Making Business Sense Out of Planting Trees in Brazil

At the Guapuruvu site you buy a shirt and get a tree Guapuruvu is the name of a gigantic tree originated in Brazil. It grows fast so it is recommended for devastated areas. The tree loses all the leaves in the winter, covering itself with beautiful yellow flowers in the spring. In the summer it has plenty of green leaves.

It is a star, it never goes unnoticed, because of its size and colors, and it inspired the name of an engineering and environment consulting company, which is creating logos paid with trees. What?

The Design of Good was inaugurated in the website of the company by the end of 2006 and it is part of the program Path of Good. The idea is to work towards environment awareness and collaborate with replanting devastated areas.

The creation of logos would cost around 5,000 reais (US$ 2,420) in the market and in this program the client pays with trees. Guapuruvu's tree currency rate today is worth 69 reais (US$ 33).

The logos are created by designer Márcio PXE and other guest designers. So far, the program has created five logos, earning 35 trees. The company offers certificates and regular reports on the development of the trees planted as payment, as a way to keep the client involved with follow up.

They are getting a space with the Coordination of Environment Recovery in Rio, says Márcio and Luis Paulo Alves, another environment engineer. Together, they created the company in 2005.

Among the regular activities of the company, are the elaboration of studies of environment impact and forest inventories. They also say that Brazil should invest in forests, which generate five times more jobs and wealth than cattle breeding. An example to be followed. One good idea reaches millions

Roberto Smeraldi, 44, a Brazilian environmentalist, founder of the NGO "Friends of the Earth," is another example of how we can get seriously involved in the job of contributing to save the planet and how economic forces and politics can intertwine to speed up the process.

Smeraldi learned how to speak the language of bankers and convinced them to create a new rule that conditions the release of funding only to companies that can show they have environmental responsibility.

The first bank to join in was ABN-AMRO, followed by Bradesco, Itaú and Unibanco. Smeraldi convinced them to follow an international protocol, which makes financial institutions co-responsible for environmental disasters involving companies financed by them. This way Smeraldi was able to use the banks help to reach big companies responsible for pollution.

Last year, Banco Real, which had US$ 1.45 billion for financing hydroelectric plants, transmission lines, gas lines and such, denied two requests for funding because they failed to comply with the new environment friendly rules.

HSBC in Brazil has denied seven applications for funding. And Smeraldi explains: "Bad drivers pay higher car insurance fees than good drivers. We want to create similar criteria to be used with companies that cause environmental damage."

Good job. Reaching for the pockets works like a charm. Nothing could be more effective to get companies to invest in environmental protection.

Clara Angelica Porto is a Brazilian bilingual journalist living in New York.  She went to school in Brazil and at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.  Clara is presently working as the English writer for The Brasilians, a monthly newspaper in Manhattan.  Comments welcome at clara.angelica@gmail.com.

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