More than 100 countries have undertaken a collective commitment to reverse forest losses in their territories. The agreement signed at the 26th United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP-26) in Glasgow involves countries with large areas of forests such as Canada, Colombia, Indonesia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and, of course, Brazil.
By announcing that it will foster zero illegal deforestation in Brazil by 2028, the Federal Government is stepping up protection of the Amazon and sustainable development. Every saved tree, with its role in carbon capture and storage, is yet another point of support for sustainable business. To remain standing, the forest that holds the greatest genetic wealth on the planet needs investments and partnerships from large, medium and small companies, both at the local and transnational level – and its management needs to have a positive impact on the living standards of the 24 million Brazilians who live in it.
In an effort to comply with the Glasgow treaty and eliminate illegal deforestation, Brazil needs engagement that encourages socio-economic sustainability in the Amazon, with local development and inclusion of communities. It is essential to embrace new technologies, innovation and professional training; setting up sustainable supply chains; making investments in education; and reconciling new and traditional knowledge.
At COP-26, we introduced a business initiative emerging from the Amazon that is in tune with the 21st century, that is committed to socioeconomic sustainability, to the forest and to the people. The actual face of this initiative is the Instituto Amazônia+21, an initiative by Amazon-based entrepreneurs with support from the National Confederation of Industry (CNI) and the nine Federations of Industries in the States that make up the Brazilian Legal Amazon. With an ESG approach (Environmental, Social and Governance), Instituto Amazônia+21 emerges to promote sustainable business in the region and adapt existing projects to the reality, requirements and vocations of the Amazon.
We are aware of the various realities in the Amazon sub-regions and it is fair to say that zero illegal deforestation must involve fighting a host of illegal activities rooted in old, backward practices that, in addition to causing an environmental tragedy, take away the dignity of workers drawn into this illicit zone. Anyone who works in compliance with the law to produce and generate jobs in the Amazon is subject to a complex set of rules, codes and regulations. This involves a very high cost, but it is through dialog with the State that we deal with conflicts, excesses and even abuses. Meanwhile, illegal activities conceal encroachment into the forest, predatory exploitation and unfair competition against companies that are socially, environmentally and fiscally responsible.
The commitment to eliminate illegal deforestation by 2028 brings good expectations, but one cannot ignore this broader and more devastating focus for Brazil’s reputation and for life in the Amazon rainforest – illegal activities that contaminate rivers, degrade lands and biomes, kill and rob traditional populations. The socio-environmental damage is estimated to be tens of billions of reais, not to mention the cost of the view according to which any enterprising activity in the region is predatory and unscrupulous. Sustainable activities that rely on appropriate technologies and effective oversight and control by the State strengthen sustainable development and can generate gains for local communities on an adequate scale, providing better living standards and justice for the people in the Amazon.
The ESG principles impose challenging socio-environmental commitments for the journey of Instituto Amazônia+21. On the path to sustainable development, Brazil must adopt innovative practices and unwavering values. The adjective that denotes compliance with the law cannot be associated with our forests only for the sake of geopolitical reference to the nine states in Brazil’s Legal Amazon. After all, as in Brazilian poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade’s world Raimundo would be a rhyme and never a solution, sustainability and illegality are not in tune.