Hania, who came back from Greece just before I arrived back from Brazil, took this picture for me while there – in the spirit of my CounterCurrent symbolism. Wish I had taken it!
Spoke at a lunch today hosted by Camargo Correa, a complex Brazilian group straddling areas like cement, construction, environmental engineering, textiles and footwear. Had met one of the shareholders, Renata Camargo Nascimento, a while back at an Alcoa Foundation event. With the aid of people like Carla Duprat and Ciro Fleury, she is encouraging the group down (or is it up?) the sustainability path. Among others, also met her daughter Luiza.
One of our challenges going forward, and particularly as SustainAbility does more work in countries like Brazil and India, will be to explore how best to help family-owned businesses like this. At least potentially, some of them could prove to have longer term time horizons than publicly listed companies.
As I left, Renata gave me a pack of information on Camago Correa – all contained in a large transparent bag, into which were inset a set of 12 flip-flops in different colours, symbolising one of their other businesses. And because the bag didn’t fit into my case, I carried it on top of my bags as I went through the airport later in the day. Remarkable how many people followed m pointing at the bag – and one very attractive woman even came up to me as I was about to go through security to ask me where I had got the bag? She wanted one, if at all possible. Felt as if I was trawling a succulently baited hook through the waters.
One thing I signally failed to do in the speech, however, was to refer to a key project SustainAbility did recently for IFC. This report made the point that companies from emerging economies are increasingly making their presence felt in the global business community. Not only are they acquiring more and more companies in the developed world, but they are also pursuing strategies that are highly competitive with those of established businesses in western markets.
Market Movers: Lessons from a Frontier of Innovation explores whether such emerging economy firms are also managing to embed sustainability in their business strategies in ways that stand comparison with companies anywhere else in the world. It tells the stories of four firms ranging across the globe from Beijing to Sao Paulo – in many cases operating in some of the most challenging environments in which to foster commercial success – and how they have found business value in strategies based on sustainability.
The companies are: Amanco, a Latin American water pipe manufacturer that decided to develop a new water-tight technology and cater to low-income customers; Deqingyuan, an ambitious Chinese enterprise which supplies high-quality eggs in Beijing; Jubilant Organosys, an Indian chemical producer that has been able to reassure and attract investors with its high environmental, health, and safety record and efficient sustainability reporting; and MAS Holdings, a Sri Lankan apparel manufacturer that increased the retention of its mostly female employees by offering them benefits, including training courses in information technology. The company is now a supplier to some of the world’s leading retailers.
The report identifies a number of ‘ingredients of success’ – factors that contributed to the strong results in all four case studies and helped them overcome some of the constraints that many emerging-economy companies face. The five ingredients are :Leadership: the role of the chief executive or chairman in pushing through a strategy based on sustainability. Integration: the embedding of sustainability elements in corporate strategies from the very beginning. Innovation: using sustainability as a source of innovation. Differentiation: having the courage to be different. Quality of relationships: business benefits from strong relationships with stakeholders – suppliers, customers, employees.
Today, Silvia Thompson and I visited one of the most fascinating social enterprises I have encountered, Turma do Bem. Founded by dentist Dr. Fábio Bibancos, the organisation has inspired thousands of Brazilian dentists to offer their services pro bono to the country’s poorest young people (through to age 18) – for whom bad teeth (or no teeth at all) mean not just an inability to smile and engage others, but also compound the problems of poverty by massively increasing the chances that they will be unable to find a suitable job. One of the striking facts I picked up was the point that one of the men Turma do Bem helped had been turned down for a job with the police force – which requires candidates to have at least 20 teeth.
First met Fabio at the Schwab Foundation summit in Zurich earlier in the year – and recall Pamela (Hartigan)’s semi-ecstatic reaction when she first encountered Turma do Bem, which applies Robin Hood principles to dentistry, cross-subsidising treatment of the poor through services supplied to the better-off. Very much like their lead value: ‘To do for the others what we’d do for our children.’ Spent a wonderful couple of hours with Fábio, Tatiana Cleff and Eduardo Moura Egas, and came away determined to help Turma do Bem if I possibly can.
Writing on the wall
Arrived in São Paulo first thing on Monday morning and raced (if that was the word in the midst of intense traffic jams) into the city to take part in the 10th anniversary meeting of Instituto Ethos’ International Advisory Board. The lanes of traffic were shot through with speeding motorcyclists, travelling at impossibly unsafe speeds – indeed, I saw one come off in collision with a vehicle and as we crawled past, the growing crowd of other bikers gathering around his still form looked pretty much like a group of mourners.
A very different spirit at Ethos, where I took part over a couple of days in a meeting of the Ethos International Advisory Board, which at times – as I (and others) put it at various stages – felt like an exercise in group therpy for some of the leaders of the global corporate responsibility movement. On the second day, however, the energy went external and the thing took off.
Among other things during these few days, I addressed a group of participants in the Ethos Sustainability Management Strategies Program, chaired a plenary session at the Ethos anniversary summit on financial management for sustainable development – and was a panellist (with Ernst Lichteringen of GRI, VCP President José Luciano Duarte Penido, Ricardo Young of Ethos and Simon Zadek) in a 2-hour session with Ray Anderson of Interface, moderated by Helio Mattar, President of the Akatu Institute for Conscious Consumption – and another Ethos co-founder. The theme here was ‘Global leadership Towards Sustainability’. this is something that the Ethos founders have consistently offered the rest of us – and it’s a huge privilege to be on the journey with them all.
Jane Nelson and Brad Googins Jane, Oded and Georg Kell (UN Global Compact) behind Simon Zadek The rhetoric, at least, is changing Tomorrow’s tools Liked the spirals: on right, Cynthia Rosenburg of Época NEGÓCIOS (to which I contribute a regular column) Cynthia, Georg My shadow on a Golden Road TV truck – who’s listening or watching? Ditto Four answers to the question: Where will the next decade take us?
By car this afternoon with Tábata Villares of Ethos to do a TV interview for Rede Globo’s Globo News (Conta Corrente). Generous fomat, apparently allowing for over 20 minutes on screen when broadcast next week. Delightful interviewer – the only thing I’m kicking myself over is that when she asked me to list the most ecologically damaging industries I somehow managed to miss the fossil fuels producers. Maybe all that make-up had gone to my head? Then Tábata and her boyfriend drove me back to the Ethos event, after I had made the acquaintance of their Dachshund, which was charming – but developed a compulsive attachment to my leg.