es on sustainability and CSR.
Branco is not exaggerating. The ILO estimates
that 25,000 Brazilians work under conditions analogous to slavery. They are usually taken to farms
under false promises; they arrive at their “new” workplace already in debt (since they are charged even for
their work boots); and they are not allowed to leave.
Furthermore, 2005 data from the Instituto Brasileiro
de Geografia e Estatística (Brazilian Geography and
Statistics Institute) show that around 2. 9 million Brazilian children between the ages of five and 15 are in
Obviously, societal inequality in Brazil is not new.
In the 1970s Brazil earned the moniker “Belindia” from
economist Edmar Bacha, to describe the coexistence of
conditions akin to small, rich Belgium and immense,
poverty-stricken India. With almost one-third of the
population living below the poverty line, the country has the second worst distribution of wealth in
the world, behind only Sierra Leone. The majority of
wealthy Brazilians live along the coastline, mainly in
the South and Southeast (the Brazilian Belgium), where
climatic conditions are much more favorable for agriculture when compared to the arid Northeast.
Brazil’s pattern of capital concentration is due
primarily to historical factors. The majority of the
country’s boom cycles, including Brazilwood, minerals, sugar cane and coffee, occurred in these same
regions. This can still be seen today. Most industry
and capital are concentrated in a few urban centers
that are early adapters of new international trends,
be they in the area of new technologies or social and
environmental models. Among the 1,279 companies
that are members of Ethos Institute (a good picture
of the companies actually concerned about sustainability), the great majority—975—are in the Southeast of Brazil, comprising the states of São Paulo,
Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais, and Espírito Santo.
The lowest numbers are in the North ( 20) and Cen-ter-West ( 60) regions.
Such a context explains why Brazil encompasses
every type of corporate profile imaginable within a
country of nearly continental proportions, ranging
from modern multinationals managed by world-class
CEOs to employers who still behave like slave lords.
The complex picture is underscored by Paulo
Branco, who contends that the number of Brazilian
companies resisting the concept of CSR and viewing
Colombia ahead of its time
—By Mateo Samper
In the early 1960s in Latin America,
social responsibility was a strange,
even revolutionary, concept—one
rarely on the minds of businessmen. Colombia was the exception.
Spurred by their country’s pressing social problems, a number of
wealthy business leaders established foundations dedicated to
bettering conditions for the poor.
Among them were Fundación Mario
Santo Domingo (created in 1960),
Fundación Carvajal (1961), and
Fundación Corona (1963). What drove
their progressive creativity, according to Fundación Carvajal’s co-founder, Manual Carvajal Sinisterra,
was the recognition that a “healthy
company can’t exist in an unhealthy
True to that vision, the three
foundations began by funding social
welfare programs. The early 1980s
marked a shift to a new focus:
entrepreneurship. “We realized the
importance of training people to
become productive,” says Carolina
Suárez, the advisor to the executive at Corona. They launched—
together with the Inter-American
Development Bank and the Fondo
de Desarrollo Empresarial (FDE)—
an enterprise aimed at training over
14,500 young, aspiring business-people in Bogotá, Medellín and Cali.
The goal: to have 350 self sustain-
ing companies up and running by
2008. Four years into the project,
they have 192.
Fundación Carvajal has trained
over 111,120 micro-entrepreneurs
primarily in Cali and Valle del
Cauca, in fields such as baking or
handicrafts. Although 65 percent of
those already owned their own businesses, foundation officials calculate that the fund contributed to the
creation of over 11,250 start ups.
Meanwhile, Fundación Mario Santo
Domingo has lent $138 million to
micro-enterprises and currently
works with over 44,500 small businesses, either through microcredit
or training programs.