RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil and WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S.A. – Conservation efforts for the planet’s largest rainforest have drawn increasingly more support from large companies throughout the world.
The green movement to save the Amazon has even become trendy.
Macy’s, a U.S. department store chain, launched a spring/summer campaign titled “Brasil: A Magical Journey.”
The goal is to draw consumers’ attention to the Amazon and raise US$1 million for the NGO The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) rainforest conservation programs.
“The private sector has an important role in the advancement of conservation efforts, and this is why we are working to refine practices, develop new science, promote conservation awareness and advance policies that support the protection of places such as the Amazon,” says Glenn Prickett, TNC’s chief external affairs officer.
During the campaign’s first phase – April 13 to May 31 – TNC received 100% of Macy’s total sales of a US$3 shopping savings pass. With the savings pass, customers received 15% to 20% off purchases on a day of their choice during the “Give, Get and Save the Rainforest” event.
In the second phase – April 22 to July 15 – the NGO has received 10% of every Brazilian product sold in more than 300 Macy’s stores in the section “O Mercado, the Market at Macy’s.”
Consumers can buy home decor, housewares, perfume, jewelry and clothing by Brazilian designers, as well as traditional Garoto chocolate, as if in they’re in a typical Brazilian mercado (market).
This is TNC’s first partnership with Macy’s, but the NGO has traditionally worked with the private sector on environmental projects.
Since 2004, TNC and Cargill have partnered on the Soja Responsável (Responsible Soy) project to help Brazilian Amazon farmers grow soy more sustainably, avoid deforestation and monitor pesticide use and water quality.
With 139,000 employees in 65 countries, Cargill is a global giant in food, agricultural, financial and industrial products, as well as the services sector.
Cargill’s initiative with TNC began with 25 farms in the Santarém area in the Brazilian state of Pará, where Cargill has a large-scale soy center. Today, 383 farms participate in the project and the level of deforestation is near zero at most farms.
Cargill has recently renewed its commitment to TNC for three more years with an investment of US$3 million. The grant will enable TNC to help restore deforested lands in the communities of Tucumã and São Félix do Xingu, also in Pará, by promoting cocoa production as an alternative for small-scale farmers.
“Cargill and TNC’s partnership demonstrates that critical areas of biodiversity can be protected while the development of responsible agricultural production continues,” says Mark Murphy, Cargill’s assistant vice president for corporate responsibility.
Vale restores 80,000 hectares
Brazilian companies also count on Amazon conservation programs to cultivate a green image to show they are socially and environmentally responsible.
In 2006, the Brazilian mining company Vale created a fund to finance the planting of seedlings in the “arco do desmatamento” (arc of deforestation), an area in the Brazilian Amazon where deforestation has threatened biodiversity.
Since the Vale Florestar (Vale Forest) fund was established, 38,000 commercial forest hectares (93,900 acres) have been planted and almost 80,000 hectares (197,684 acres) have been restored or protected.
The fund centers on Vale’s choosing landowners interested in leasing their farms to grow eucalyptus, which is mainly sold to the pulp and paper industries.
The grower takes on the responsibility of leasing the property for 15 years and allocating part of the land for forest conservation. The land also must be in a degraded area since Vale’s goal is to restore deforested areas.
There are more than 100 leased farms that, in turn, have created 1,500 jobs.
By 2015, Vale expects R$600 million (US$300 million) to be deposited in the fund, so that 450,000 hectares (1.1 million acres) will be allocated for commercial forest plantations or recovered by 2022.
The program’s success is attributed to replacing destructive practices with sustainable ones while still earning the same revenue, according to Alexandre Vianna, Vale Florestar’s director.
“The leasing cost over 15 years is equal to what the grower would have to spend to raise livestock,” he says.
The project involves the municipalities of Dom Eliseu, Ulianópolis, Paragominas and Abel Figueiredo in the state of Pará, where Carajás Mine, Vale’s main iron ore mine, is located.
Natura: Raw materials from the Brazilian Amazon
Brazilian cosmetics company Natura sought raw materials for its products in the Amazon and also found fertile land for its conservation efforts.
Since 2000, the company has worked with Amazon suppliers that grow tropical riches such as cupuaçu, açaí, andiroba and other fruits and plants found in Natura shampoos and lotions.
As of 2011, 1,495 families in 16 communities throughout the Brazilian Amazon were suppliers for Natura.
Farmers and extractivists – collectors of natural resources in the Amazon – should have a family-based production and be part of an association or cooperative to be eligible for the program. Revenue varies depending on the amount of raw materials supplied.
To strengthen relationships with suppliers and increase the production scope of its cosmetics line, Natura launched the Amazônia program, which foresees investments of R$1 billion (US$500 million) by 2020, says Renata Puchala, the program’s manager.
Resources will mainly be allocated to build a research center in Manaus, the capital of the state of Amazonas, where researchers and scientists will work to have a better understanding of the region and preserve local biodiversity.
The research center will open in the second half of this year, Puchala says.
The program also plans to expand the Benevides plant in Pará, which manufactures vegetable oils and soap.
“With these initiatives, Natura aims to increase the purchase of Amazonian raw materials from 10% to 30% and double the number of families in its Amazon supply chain,” Puchala adds.