Executive Secretary of the Global Compact Brazil Network argues that companies have responsibilities towards society, but also opportunities to do good
When Kofi Annan announced the Global Compact, he said he wanted to make companies more human. And he was right, because today, if you look at the 200 largest GDPs, 153 of them are companies. So, we can see the potential that these companies have to do evil or the potential to do good. However, I have the conviction that companies are not planning to do evil; on the contrary, they want to do good. This is what sustainability is increasingly teaching us – they realized that if they don’t have a positive agenda and a business model to indeed do good things, they will succumb. I believe my transition from the student movement and social movements to the corporate environment had a lot to do with the environmental issue. I have no doubts about that. If there’s a sphere in which you can cause a great positive impact, it is with the companies.
The fight for a better world of Carlo Linkevieius Pereira, 39, began at the age of 14 in the student movement. “I’ve always been very active; I’ve done everything you can imagine within the student movement. And it opened my eyes to sustainability,” he says. For that reason, many were taken aback when, instead of leaving home to do something connected to the humanities, Carlo decided to study chemistry in Ribeirão Preto, at the University of São Paulo (USP). By studying biodiesel, Carlo met, again, the issue of sustainability and joined chemistry to the social and environmental issues that always concerned him. “There were the issues of water, climate change and society. All of that satisfied me at the time,” he confesses
Head of the Global Compact Brazil Network, the same proposed by Kofi Annan and officially launched in 2000, Carlo Pereira knows that water is a fundamental issue that needs to be discussed at a World Forum, but observes that the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the SDGs, are indivisible, and a holistic approach is necessary as everything is integrated. “There is an issue that I find horrible, but serves as a good example for the SDGs. When we stop to think about water, we have to remember that there’s also the matter of power and the matter of gender,” he explains. According to Carlo, millions of people still need to walk to get water, and about 90% of these people are women, whereas a quarter (25%) of them are young girls. One of the main problems in some regions is that many cases of rape happen just when they are going to fetch water or firewood. “It’s all closely intertwined so we have to work on all SGDs.”
For Carlo, companies need to act on behalf of the social role of stakeholders, taking care of the community in which they are installed and their employees, but also thinking about the business. “In the said 2015 water crisis in Southeastern Brazil, many companies had the operation stalled. How many hydroelectric power plants had to stop generating power, and raise the energy cost? Again, we see the interconnection. The government had to stop producing hydroelectric power to produce electricity via fossil fuel. It’s all intertwined and that’s why companies have to engage. It’s something I strongly believe in: Brazilian companies should increasingly engage because the issue of sustainability can be turned into a competitive advantage for them,” advocates Carlo. He also points out that, since 2012, when the issue of water was featured in the World Economic Forum, it is known that scarcity of the resource is one of the five biggest risks to world economy, so a change of attitude is urgent.
Born in the City of Americana, in the State of São Paulo, Carlo doesn’t forget the historical water crises of Brazil, and he believes it’s a mistake for people to mention that there was a crisis in the past. For him, the water crisis is an ongoing problem. “If we remember that SDG 6 is not just about water, but about sanitation, we are faced with another terrible fact that 50% of the population in Brazil do not have access to sewage. And we know of the direct correlation between this and health issues. Today, a lot of children die because we don’t have sewage. Brazil is still in the 19th century when it comes to sanitation, and we need to act.”
When you talk about companies within the Global Compact, you are talking about responsibility and opportunity, but Carlo believes that it is also valid for the population. “People can’t just leave their actions to be handled by governments and companies. It’s very easy to demand actions from companies and governments, and of course we have to do that, but such demands have to be more systematic and in a more structured way. Very often, people do not even make demands, they just complain, and complaining is bad. You bring this negative energy to you. You have to turn this nuisance into practice, increase participation, go ahead, mobilize, take part in some organization, and be aware of your role. Of course, there are big water consumers, but every single each person consumes water as well. Everyone has to be vigilant of others and of themselves,” he claims.
Thinking of that young man who started to fight still as a teenager within the student movement, Carlo says the big difference now is that he decided to dedicate his life to it. He didn’t stop in his teens and became increasingly more involved. “It’s something we see a lot in social movements: in general, people see it as a parallel issue, which is essential, no doubt, important and necessary, but I wanted to dedicate my life to it, it’s my day to day”, he says.
Content published in March 26, 2018