Corporate Social Responsibility in Brazil
Since the 1960s,
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has become an important business concept in Brazil. Over the years the CSR movement in Brazil from a national perspective has been growing tremendously. This also goes for the Brazilian CSR movement in relation to other countries. In the 1990s, a variety of initiatives arose to support and give more attention to
CSR in Brazil.
CSR - Managing the Ecological and Social footprint
In 1993, the Brazilian NGO IBASE launched a national campaign against hunger and misery, which they did in collaboration with the Brazilian business community.
In 1998, the
Brazilian entrepreneurs and managers involved founded ETHOS, the main CSR organization in the world.
CSR organization ETHOS has been growing enormously. In 2009, there were 1367 member companies, of which 68% are Brazilian SMEs (Small and Medium-sized Enterprises).
Their total revenue was 35% of the Gross Domestic Product of Brazil.
ETHOS is involved in a lot of different activities to promote CSR in Brazil. They are engaged in research, publications, manuals, trainings, campaigns, CSR awards and its own system of CSR indicators and benchmarking.
CSR indicators of ETHOS give a good insight regarding the CSR priorities of Brazil. They are based on international treaties and conventions. In addition, the indicators also reflect the current reality of business in Brazil.
Until today Brazil has been suffering from social inequality, discrimination and corruption.
Brazil is a country with huge regional differences. About 30% of the population lives below the poverty line, which is mainly the rural population.
A major cause of
social inequality in Brazilis due to the unequal distribution of land. To counter this, there have been a few governments with organized plans with the objective to transfer land.
However, these goals were never entirely reached. Therefore, there are still millions of people who have no access to Brazil's vast arable landmass, while a few landowners own millions hectares of land.
Another part of the social aspects is the Labour Act. Brazil has a huge Labour Act of more than 900 articles which are very detailed. Because there are so many work codes, enforecement of the Labour Act is seen as a major obstacle.
Local unions do regular research into working conditions in various sectors. A local partner or consultant is indispensable if you want to meet the extensive Brazilian labour legislation.
The labour legislation makes high demands on companies in Brazil and many parts of it are detailed, extensive and complex. In practice, the distance between the law and the enforcement of this law is very large, partly because the development and enforcement of a federal law may vary by state or municipality.
The legal system is often slow, overloaded and does not always treat everyone the same way. It sometimes happens that influential people with good contacts preempt the existing rules.
In Brazil there are often corruption scandals. The risk of corruption particularly occurs with governments at state and municipal level. Corruption occurs in procurement, VAT tax, municipal tax on real estate, access to municipal services and licensing.
Brazilian culture is based on relationships and status, and much less on own responsibility and compliance with laws and regulations. This ensures that it is often difficult to draw the line between corruption and relationship management.
Previously, the emphasis of CSR in Brazil was aimed at the collective, social aspects such as labour relations, distribution of income, equal treatment and social investments by companies in their employees and the community.
There was less attention paid to the environment. Now more
companies in Brazil see the environment as part of the certification of their own production process.
In the last decade, the number of companies in Brazil with ISO 14001, which sets out the criteria for an Environmental Management System, have grown spectacularly.
Companies that want to build a building in Brazil or want to expand need to apply for a permit from the state environmental agency. This may be at the federal or state level, depending on the type of project and location.
For projects or activities that may have a significant environmental impact, an environmental impact study is required. Per government level, there is a list of activities available for which such a study is needed.
Should an environmental impact study be required, there are successively three licenses needed: for study, installation and operations. In environmentally sensitive areas such as the Amazon, the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources IBAMA must also provide an opinion on the permit.