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Luiz Henrique Tápia

Director of Sustainability and Institutional Relations at Veracel


Relationships between companies and communities

Sustainable development initiatives are increasingly included in the strategic planning of organizations that, in addition to being concerned about the scarcity of resources, have also realized that care for the environment is a competitive differentiator. Working sustainability as part of the business is a necessity and an intelligent strategy, and it is crucial that companies recognize this responsibility and adopt this practice to minimize their impacts and promote environmental protection.

However, is this enough when we think about consolidating real changes in the relationship between society and the environment? A phrase said by my predecessor on Veracel 's Sustainability Board , Renato Carneiro, makes a lot of sense for this reflection: “ There is no such thing as a successful company in a failed territory ”.

Implementing environmental actions and treating sustainability as a business strategy is just the basics. In order to move towards a future in which there is a balance between human action and the environment, it is necessary to look at the territory in which the business is located, understand the needs of the surrounding communities and go beyond, seeking ways to engage these people in the gains that sustainable production can provide. An example of this relationship is the performance of Veracel for the protection of marine life.

To prevent the transport of pulp from Belmonte, Bahia to the terminal in Barra do Riacho, Espírito Santo from causing impacts, the company developed programs and partnerships to protect animals, such as the one made with Instituto Baleia Jubarte and a program to monitor chelonians which, for 18 years, has been monitoring around 35 kilometers of beaches to monitor turtles in the region. Soon, to complement this initiative, the company will inaugurate the first turtle rehabilitation center in the southern region of Bahia, an innovative initiative in the sector that will save the lives of many animals.

By themselves, these programs would already be relevant differentials, however, alone they are not enough. Since 2014, Veracel has been monitoring the fishing chain in the region, which provides detailed data on the dynamics of local fishing . The objective is to contribute to the management of the activity and generate earning opportunities for fishermen, in addition to supplying them with data that will allow them to enroll in government development projects.

According to data from this monitoring, fishing represents more than 4.5 million reais per year for municipalities in the company's area of operation, being the livelihood of entire families for generations. With that, Veracel also includes in this maritime environmental work the needs of the local fishing community, both so that its operation does not affect the work of fishermen, and to strengthen the fishing chain. This strengthening professionalizes production, expands the possibilities of income for these people and, consequently, brings even more environmental benefits, as it avoids the need for an unrestrained increase in fishing in order to maintain the community's income.

Despite these successful initiatives, we know that it is still possible to go further. There are actions already adopted by communities that are already extremely sustainable and low carbon, such as family farming. How can we involve this agricultural profile in the gains from a possible negotiation of carbon credits, for example?

It is worth remembering that carbon credits are a form of compensation used to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change. In family farming, there are several agricultural and forestry practices that can generate these credits, such as the adoption of agroforestry systems, the use of renewable energy or waste management. We know that the participation of family farmers in carbon credit markets can be challenging due to factors such as access to finance, technical capacity and access to certification and monitoring programs.

Therefore, it is important that family farmers have adequate support and incentives to benefit from this market. It is time to look at opportunities like this, break down barriers and think of the carbon credit market as something that goes beyond corporations and can also reach communities, benefiting and encouraging increasingly sustainable projects.

I am convinced that, following this path, companies will be able to go beyond the basics in their environmental actions, expanding the population's access to the benefits that this agenda provides. After all, the success of the territory is the success of the company, and placing the community at the forefront of environmental conservation is what will make the difference in ensuring that the proposed environmental actions are truly lasting.