Published originally in Portuguese by Folha de São Paulo.
What do impact businesses have to do with the recent and frequent Brazilian catastrophes, such as Brumadinho, Mariana, Arraial do Cabo, the pesticide discharge scandals, and the too often cases of oil spills, blackouts, droughts, and wildfires?
It is the logic that underlies them: humans are part of nature, not something separate.
As social entrepreneurs, impact investors and venture philanthropists, our guiding force is the belief that humans and nature are one. If we observe nature closely, we will realize that it is perfect, balanced, innovative and complete.
When we understand the inner workings of nature, the logic of business changes. It changes because prioritizing the economic side of business disrupts the balance of the same environment that enables our existence. This damage manifests in countless ways - hunger, drought, unemployment, illness, and the death of flora and fauna.
The destruction caused by the mud in the village of Córrego do Feijão, after the rupture of the dam of mining tailings in the region of Brumadinho | Folhapress, São Paulo
We can no longer limit ourselves to the individual and selfish, economic bias of the entrepreneur or of the shareholder.
This will not work over the long-term. This is excellent news.
It is not enough to monitor and punish entities tied to the recent Brazilian catastrophes, but about reversing the logic that enables them to exist in the first place.
It is during the incorporation and fundraising stages during which entities should be enabled to operate only until they have resolved the social and environmental impacts of their business model.
That is, to make all existing businesses by statute committed to the minimization of their environmental impact, be it through compensation models, reforestation or, better still, bringing the preservation of the environment to the center of their business model. So the more positive impact on the environment, the more profitable the business will be.
This new model acknowledges that the purpose of business is not just profit, but rather a system of exchanging value among humans and the environment.
Dignified employment is not only about living wages, but also a host of other issues. It is about eliminating unfair trade, slave labor, abusive remuneration, and power abuse from every aspect of society.
In addition to punishing those who use slave labor in their million dollar productions, we must ensure that every institution in our countries guarantees a model of employability based on dignified work and income, fair trade and working conditions appropriate to the trade.
We are saying that in addition to punishing those who disrespect their neighbor through physical and symbolic violence, such as homophobia, racism, machismo, xenophobia, and discrimination, we must ensure that all people have the same rights and the same access to opportunities.
We experience firsthand the way businesses create more just, productive and happier communities. Through this process, our businesses integrate diversity of talent and skill leading to greater profitability as well.
It is not about a political position, it is not about competition, but about seeing ourselves as a whole. If we understand this, we understand that our success, in the face of the tragedy or the unhappiness of others, is not success at all.
If we understand this, we will not give so much importance to financial profit alone, but to the comprehensiveness of the model in bringing value.
After more than 20 years studying, supporting and investing in social and environmental impact businesses, I am sure that we have all the answers.
We have many paths to choose from for a better, healthier, greener and fairer world for all.
The answers that we don't have yet, we can certainly find in nature. So, we have these answers too, we just need to look for them.
No confrontation, no teasing and no exploitation necessary.
Let’s embrace this new logic — a new logic of living, studying, educating, loving, respecting and, doing business.