Kari Herlevi: Brazil – more than just samba and carnivals

In Sao Paulo, in a trendy part of the large Brazilian metropolis, a busy murmur of talking is heard. Considering that it is close to the June World Cup in football, one might imagine that the Brazilians are interested in nothing but football. But instead of football fans, the room was full of experts on questions of municipal waste.

Also taking part was a group of Finnish pioneering companies. The Finnish companies have solutions to offer for Brazil's mounting problem with waste, which is especially difficult in large cities.

The audience at the seminar took part in the discussion very actively. From a Finnish point of view the discussion actually warms up when solutions to waste problems are discussed. It turns out that 800,000 people in Brazil make their living by collecting waste. Few of these people are members of labour unions, and many live beneath the poverty line. In the opinion of many, a technological leap forward is impossible, because it would leave a gaping hole in people's earnings.

I pondered the matter for a moment, but then a Brazilian man stands up and says: "It's true that this is a difficult equation, but how many of us would want our children to have a future of collecting waste by hand at landfills?"

In Brazil, as in many developing countries, it is common for companies to take part in different ways in local social projects that promote the common good. The significance of these projects should not be underestimated, as it is through them that companies enhance their reputations, in addition to getting good labour and possibly some tax benefits.

The Brazilian cleantech and bioeconomy markets are attracting an increasing number of Finnish companies. However, it should be kept in mind that even though the green economy often involves the reconciliation of economics and environmental points of view, social questions cannot be ignored. In the final instance the question involves people's wellbeing.

I am a big football fan myself and in that respect I will undoubtedly be spending much time with the World Cup. In addition to the World Cup, there many other interesting things are happening in Brazil. Team Finland Future Watch produces information about international business opportunities, and factors that change the operational environment. The service is expanding to produce information this year on Brazil as well.

Brazil is powerfully driven from the innovation point of view. The country also has know-how on the system level, that we Finns could learn from. For instance, 90 percent of the cars in the country are so-called flexi-fuel cars, which are capable of utilising renewable biological fuel.

Currently at Tekes we are planning to launch a shared invitation for funding applications with Brazil's leading innovation financier Finep. Brazil is still an unfamiliar market for many Finnish companies, and good partners are often a prerequisite for getting onto the market. The funding application would open an excellent way to find new possibilities for business activities in Brazil. So keep your ears open, and while we're at it, let's enjoy the big sporting festival.

Kari Herlevi
Programme Manager
Green Growth