Published originally in Portuguese by Folha de São Paulo.
What do social and environmental 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 acknowledges humans are part of nature, not something separate.
The logic with which all of us, social entrepreneurs, impact investors and venture philanthropists, are trying to work is understanding humans and nature as one. If we observe it closely, it is perfect, balanced, innovative and complete. In other words, if we don't muddle it too much, everything works perfectly and majestically.
When we try to understand the workings of nature, its logic and, more than that, to see that we are part of this whole, the logic of business changes. It changes because it makes no sense to prioritize the economic side of business if it destroys the nature of which we are part, meaning injury to millions of human, animal and plant lives over the long-term. This damage can come in countless ways - hunger, drought, unemployment, illness, death.
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 live in a time when we can no longer limit ourselves to the individual and selfish, economic bias of the entrepreneur or of the shareholder.
We already know that this will not work anymore in the future. This is excellent news.
We are not only talking about monitoring and punishing the cases mentioned above, but about reversing this logic. We are talking about don't approve any investment or legal paper of an entity that has not previously thought and resolved the social and environmental impacts of its business model.
We are not only talking about monitoring and punishing the cases mentioned above, but about reversing this logic altogether. For example, failing to approve any investment or legal registration of an entity that has not resolved the social and environmental impact of its business model, unintended or not.
We are saying that in addition to punishing the models that currently cause damage to society and the environment, we must prevent the new models from entering into this same old-fashioned logic, in which the only objective is profit, financial capital.
This same old-fashioned logic referred to fines and damages, used to minimize losses, as social and environmental impact. We’ve surpassed this logic, right? I’d say we ultra-surpassed it. Unfortunately, it’s still present in our lives.
We are saying that, in addition to punishing those who use slave labor in their million dollar productions, we must ensure that every institution on our planet (or our country, in order to be more palpable) guarantees a model of employability based on dignified work and income, fair trade and working conditions appropriate to the trade.
Dignified employment is not only about living wages, but also a host of other issues.
Considering all of the elements that make livelihoods dignified, allows us to combat the logic that drives businesses that create exorbitant profit for the few and are driven by unfair trade, slave labor, abusive remuneration, and power abuse.
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 in general, we must ensure that all people have the same rights and the same access to opportunities.
Business in general is an excellent tool to prove that this is possible to work in more diverse environments that will be then more just, productive and happier.
Or that diversity in business is something rich and also profitable if you prefer to look that way.
We are saying that in addition to severely rescinding social and financial capital from the businesses that damage those guilty of environmental tragedies and / or crimes, we must prevent new, equally harmful models from arising.
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 you have on the environment, the more profitable your business will be.
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 get to know and live this new logic — a new logic of living, studying, educating, loving, respecting and, doing business.
We just need to get everybody on board!