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The environmental executive manager of CNI (National Confederation of Industry) discusses the opportunities and compromises of the Brazilian industry’s investments in sustainability and claims that the circular economy can have a significant role in the sector

In Brazil, the weight of the industry in the GDP (2017) was 11.8%.  This sector bears around 22% of the Brazilian workforce. Considering how crucial the industry is for the development of the economy and society, it has a very high environmental impact in the extraction of natural resources and energy consumption.  

In 2018, CNI partnered with the federal government to develop and publish the document  A change in the weather and in the Brazilian industry: Recommendations and strategies to implement the Brazilian NDC (Nationally determined supposed contribution).

The document presents proposals for implementing and financing the commitments established in the Brazilian NDC regarding the Paris Agreement. The environmental executive manager of CNI, Davi Bomtempo, says that the research presents ways for the climate agenda to generate new business opportunities for the potential growth of the industrial sectors, increasing efficiency and employment opportunities.    

Interviewed by bluevision, Davi Bomtempo discussed CNI’s commitments to guarantee more sustainable and productive practices in every sector, to establish more efficient management models from an environmental perspective, and also talked about the importance of aspects that form the concept of a circular economy for companies around the world. Check it out.

bluevision: What’s the role of the industry and what’s being done to achieve more sustainable developments and the environmental balance?

Davi Bomtempo: In general, the national industry has initiatives to decrease the impact of its operations without sacrificing its attitudes and the socioenvironmental balance for money.  Among the attitudes, there is the conscious use of energy, a gradual replacement of fossil fuels by renewable ones, and sustainable forest management. In the water efficiency sector, the recirculation, water reuse, and desalination initiatives are becoming more popular. Another concerning issue is waste management. It’s important to notice the gradual increase of the waste recycling index and the implementation of the circular economy in many sectors. All these factors directly contribute to more efficient use of natural resources and the consolidation of a low carbon economy in Brazil’s industrial sector.

According to CNI, it’s paramount to establish new financing models for the development of cleaner energy. What is currently lacking in the economic structure for the industry to go even further on this path?

DB: The consolidation of a low carbon economy often goes through implementing technologies that are still too disruptive, bearing the need of some time to better develop itself, the deconstruction of barriers, and the adaptation of the industrial operations to this new reality.

However, some of the existing low carbon financing modalities don’t consider the risks of using these new technologies; thus, they can’t demonstrate the necessary attractiveness.

In the document Industry contribution to the Climate Financing Agenda, released by CNI during the COP-24, in Poland, we presented the main barriers mapped by the industrial sector to access low carbon financing sources. The document highlights the main recommendations to the government and market to have financial arrangements that fit the reality of our industry. Among the proposals, there’s the creation of a governance structure to climate financing in Brazil, clear and fair rules to promote enough legal safety in the transition between the market mechanisms regarding the Paris Agreement, fundraising from the private sector to emission-reduction projects, and recognition of positive externalities in the low carbon projects to be funded.

And what are the responsibilities and attributions that the national industry must bear to help Brazil achieve more expressive results from an environmental perspective?

DB: Sustainability is a big part of the Brazilian industry’s strategy. The importance of this subject is increasingly growing, not only with a focus on legal issues but also due to the need to bear in mind that we must save natural resources for business and the population’s welfare. The Brazilian industry sector has the second-best performance in the emission of greenhouse gas. Between 2005 and 2014, the growing index of emissions in the industrial sector was 19%. Yet, it was lower than the GDP index of the same period, which was 23%.

The effort on this matter reflects in the goal established in the federal government’s Industry Plan, which aims to reduce in 5% this sector’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. According to the Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovation, and Communication, by 2020, the greenhouse gas emission is expected to be 46% below the goal of the Industry Plan.

According to the Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovation, and Communication, by 2020, the greenhouse gas emission is expected to be 46% below the goal of the Industry Plan.”
– Davi Bomtempo

Thinking about energy, the Brazilian industry is one of the cleanest in the whole world. However, there’s still space for growth in the Aeolic and solar sectors.  What’s being done about it and how can these new sources contribute to the generation of employment and a positive social impact, beyond the environmental?

DB: Researches from the International Labor Organization (ILO) show that by 2030, there should be around 24 million new job opportunities worldwide due to the “green economy” and “low carbon”. However, an issue that should be treated with care, and it’s already discussed in the international negotiations about climate change, is the guarantee that this change occurs in a fair way for the workers who will eventually lose their job positions.  

There’s the concern that the workers must be qualified and prepared for this new reality and, hence, reallocated to their new professional attributions. This way, the Industry System, through the National Industrial Learning Service (SENAI), is preparing workers to the Aeolic and solar sectors, and also for other renewable sources, such as biomass, and even to the challenges brought by the energy-efficiency of the process. It all follows a market demand sensibly aligned to safe and low-cost energy demand.

There’s a massive investment in the efficiency of natural resources in extractivism and mining. However, there are many accusations of illegal mining, mostly in the Amazon.

DB: Illegality, regardless of economic sector, must be treated and prevented by Agencies of the local government. The industry represented by CNI is harmed by unfair competition and illegal products, which don’t pay due taxes and don’t follow environmental and labor laws.

Also on extractivism: the deforestation also shows growing and concerning indexes. Despite the environmental injury, which may be irreversible, the Brazilian industry may suffer international sanctions. What can be done about it?

DB: Legal deforestation and illegal deforestation must be distinct. Legal deforestation is under the law parameters, especially the new Forestry Code (Law 12.651/12), and under authorization of the governing environmental agency. Illegal deforestation doesn’t work under any parameter and is usually linked to illicit activities, such as land-grabbing, or simply a lack of knowledge about the laws.  

Regarding “vegetal extractivism”, the IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics) understands that this activity corresponds to all the gathering of products of the native or natural forests, regarding food, rubber, wax, fiber, wood, oil, etc. Thinking about wood, which represents most of the production in this segment, extraction is only allowed under the sustainable forest management, which must be approved by the governing environmental agency. The Sustainable Management plan aims to maintain the forest infrastructure and biodiversity, considered a part of the strategy of forest maintenance. Therefore, it’s wrong to relate the vegetal extractivism agenda with deforestation.

CNI supports the native forest base lumber company compromised with sustainable forest management, which is a crucial economic activity for many Brazilian states. So, to improve the differentiation of the origin of forest products, the federal government is implementing the National Control System on the Origin of Forestry Products (Sinaflor). This system will be able to determine whether the wood comes from legal or illegal deforestation and will make the wood custody chain clearer. CNI supports the initiative and is already working with the federal government to implement it.

Supporters of the circular economy are showing a new path to the production of products and goods; since the beginning, they must be designed in a circular manner, so there’s no loss of raw material – even after consumption. How well is this being applied by the Brazilian industry at the moment and how much can we advance?

DB: The circular economy logic encourages waste reduction and reuse of materials in the productive cycles, just like nature does with materials and nutrients. This means creating and designing products and services that offer maximum capacity regarding durability and recycling and developing bigger productive chains, which add more value to the products and allow their use for longer periods. CNI has been catching up with this issue and, nowadays, assessing its impact in the industry and the opportunities that this new model may bring to creating jobs and opportunities.

How can the circular economy concept remodel production?

DB: While working with the lifecycle in mind, the products and packages development projects consider the need to reuse after the conventional use, predicting the possibility of repairs, reconditioning, reuse and recycling. It’s about the maximum value of a product and its materials. This cultural change has an impact on the production and consumption itself, allowing companies and consumers to get closer to each other.

A circular economy is wide and goes way beyond recycling. It comprises many issues, such as the difference between having a product or simply using it, without owning it. These questions, which are at the center of circular economy, may have an impact in businesses worldwide. CNI promotes this discussion because it supports the future of the Brazilian industry.

Content published in March 25, 2019

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