The Best Corporate Social Responsibility Programs in Latin America.
By David Haskel in Argentina, Taylor Barnes in Brazil, Gideon Long in Chile, Anastasia Moloney in Colombia, David Agren in Mexico, Lisa Wing in Peru and Doreen Hemlock in Miami.
They nurture local suppliers, provide scholarships and teach nutrition. They plant trees, embrace renewable energy and encourage teenagers to become involved in social causes.
Across Latin America, companies are paying closer attention to Corporate Social Responsibility, looking beyond profits to their impact on the environment and society.
They’re active in CSR partly to keep their brand names strong. Companies face growing scrutiny of their practices from civic groups who can mobilize fast online. Plus, companies are increasingly ranked on how they treat employees, use resources and help their communities.
Dozens of companies in Latin America now have top-notch CSR programs, improving the lives of millions of people across the region, from highlands to inner cities.
Here is Latin Trade’s first list of the best CSR programs in Latin America, drawn from our own correspondents, awards and rankings, including the Global 100 from Canada’s Corporate Knights magazine for “clean capitalism” .
Presented yearly at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the Global 100 this year featured three companies from Latin America – all from Brazil.
Software titan Microsoft strives to bridge the digital divide. In Argentina, the company has partnered since 2001 with Fundacion Equidad, an entity that promotes equal opportunities in a digital era. Last year, they trained more than 600 students in computer repair, fixed at least 2,400 PCs and delivered the machines to 350 community organizations.
In all, Microsoft’s Latin American division donated $13 mi-llion in cash and software last year just through its Community Technology Skills Program, assisting more than 300 groups in 16 countries. Its training program spans from basic computing to applications that can boost productivity for micro-enterprise. The global powerhouse, with $70 billion in revenue last year, also works with Argentine universities known for turning out top-notch software engineers.
Argentine confectioner Arcor doesn’t sugar-coat problems. The company billed as the world’s largest candy maker has embraced sustainability – that is, taking long-term responsibility to use resources in ways that ensure they’ll last. Since 2009, Arcor has reduced its water and energy use, adopted more eco-friendly packaging, added health foods to its lineup and boosted diversity in the workplace. Those efforts earned it the No. 1 spot on the latest CSR ranking by Argentine business magazine Mercado, based on a consumer opinion poll.
Arcor’s foundation focuses on education for children. Since 2007, it has worked with Argentine authorities on an e-learning program that has reached preschool, kindergarten and elementary school teachers in 18 provinces. The program’s Webinars and Web site are vital, because many teachers in barrios and rural areas have no formal training to teach, says the foundation’s Adriana Castro. The company has 40 industrial plants in South America, exports to 120 countries and had $2.5 billion in annual revenues in 2010, according to the Latin 500 ranking, from Latin Trade and Latin Business Chronicle.
Philips Argentina began its CSR health program in 1999 with a mobile diagnostic truck that traveled throughout the country, assisting the low-income population.
In 2003, the company established an alliance with LALCEC, the prestigious Argentine League Against Cancer, and converted the project into the Women’s Truck, a vehicle equipped with its own technology to diagnose gynecological ailments.
Nine years and thousands of kilometers later, the success of the program is measured by 24,000 diagnostic studies carried out with low-income women in different parts of Argentina to prevent cancer.
“With this program, we seek to improve people’s quality of life,” Santiago Pezzati, Philips’ director of public affairs for Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile and Bolivia, tells Latin Trade.
In this alliance, Philips took charge of the medical and operative team, and LALCEC contributed the organizational network and the statistical studies throughout Argentina. The next stage, which will begin in the second half of this year, will be to convert the Women’s Truck into a Maternal-Child Truck and to move from diagnosis to prevention, said Sabrina Guidi, manager of the company’s corporate communications,
Philips contributes $100,000 a year to this project and has 65 volunteers among the company’s employees. It also has other CSR programs, such as one targeting schools called Health Guardians, which is aimed at ensuring that children learn, through play, activities that contribute to improving their quality of life and the environment.
MTV LATIN AMERICA
MTV’s EXIT (End Exploitation and Trafficking) campaign unites UNICEF, Miami TV network Tr3s and Puerto Rico’s Grammy award-winning band Calle 13 to raise awareness of the abuse and show there are other options for youths. MTV’s SET kicked off late 2011 as a magazine-style show on youth health, work and education issues. It features Latin music stars discussing their involvement with social causes. The show is part of MTV Latin America’s long-standing partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank’s youth program. MTV Latin America makes its CSR push partly from its hub in Argentina.
Multi-level marketing to trendy urban women hasn’t stopped Brazilian beauty products maker Natura from staying grounded in rural hinterlands. The eco-friendly brand partners with far-flung providers of such tropical fruits as cupuaçú and pitanga.
“We go there and figure out all the paths” for farmers to deliver, Sergio Talocchi, Natura’s manager of community relationships, tells Latin Trade. That helps rural families make a better living in their traditional homelands.
Natura sells through 1.1 million consultants in Brazil and 200,000 more in other countries, bringing in nearly $3 billion in revenue in 2010. Its work with suppliers, ban on animal testing, carbon offsets and other green practices, earned it the 2009 ECO prize from Brazil’s American Chamber of Commerce and 2010 awards from the Global Reporting Initiative.
Corporate Knight ranked Natura No. 2 on its latest Global 100 companies list.
Ubiquitous in Brazil – it’s in every municipality – Bradesco bank has staked its reputation on financial inclusion to spur prosperity. It opened branches in Rio de Janeiro favelas, such as Rocinha and City of God, before others did. It launched a pay-by-cellphone option for people without checking accounts. Nearly 80 percent of its customers come from Brazil’s middle- or low-income classes.
Outreach by the banking giant, which has more than $400 billion in assets, extends deep into pockets of the sprawling Amazon region. A floating bank agency travels 995 miles along the Amazon River to 51 settlements, offering micro-credit and other services.
“With those little communities on the riverside, how do you promote development?” spokeswoman Ivani Benazzi de Andrade says. Her answer: “Inclusion.”
The push to reach low-income customers helped Bradesco win international Golden Peacock awards for CSR. It also helped earn the bank a spot on the latest Global 100 sustainable companies list from Corporate Knights, ranking No. 61 worldwide.
Paper production might not be the first thing to jump to mind when considering environmental stewardship. But Brazil’s Votorantim Group repeatedly earns eco-kudos. Its paper-making Fibria company has ranked on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for the past five years. (And Votorantim Cement won a 2010 ECO prize from Brazil’s American Chamber of Commerce.)
Votorantim created an institute focused on promoting initiatives for young people to improve their education, access to qualified jobs, broaden its cultural frontiers and develop their sports capacity.
Votorantim operates in 24 countries and had $13 billion in revenue in 2010, according to the Latin 500 ranking from Latin Trade. Its Fibria unit is keen on reforestation and has signed the Atlantic Forest Restoration Pact. It aims to replant 28,000 hectares by 2023, with nearly 5,000 hectares already reforested.
When Easter Island had a waste problem, Chilean steel maker Gerdau AZA found the solution. The island is a Chilean territory 2,250 miles from the mainland. It receives thousands of tourists per year on just 15 miles of land, measured from end to end, and that doesn’t leave much room for landfills. So, Easter Island’s garbage is shipped to South America at great expense. In 2010, Gerdau AZA donated a metal compactor to the island. It has crushed hundreds of tons of junk into cubes for easy transport. When the scrap reaches Chile, Gerdau AZA recycles it. The company also produced a booklet explaining how the 5,000 residents can best to keep Easter Island clean.
In mainland Chile, Gerdau AZA joined forces with the government to help destroy illegal weapons. More than 13,000 weapons have been melted down in company furnaces and recycled. Such efforts have Gerdau AZA climbing the annual rankings for best CSR practices in Chile. PROhumana, the Chilean foundation promoting CSR, ranked it ninth on the list in 2009, third in 2010 and number 1 last year. The company has been part of Brazil’s Gerdau Group since 1992.
“We provide the light. You provide the energy.” That’s how Chilean electric company Chilectra describes its relations with thousands of aspiring soccer players in Santiago, the capital. For 17 years, Chilectra has been reclaiming derelict land to make vibrant public spaces. Many lots now are mini-soccer pitches, with Chilectra providing floodlights. The company has provided lighting for more than 150 lots since 1994, spawning its own soccer competition – the Chilectra Cup – played by teams of rival youths. Some lots are used to screen movies free of charge, with Chilectra providing lights. PROhumana, a non-profit company, ranked Chilectra No. 2 in its 2011 list for best CSR practices. The company is part of Spain’s Endesa Group.
The earthquake that shook Chile in February 2010 proved a headache for many companies – especially Sodimac, Chile’s biggest supplier of construction materials, and part of Falabella Group. Thousands of people needed wood, cement, and metal to patch shattered homes, and Sodimac moved quickly. But it also organized workshops in the quake zone, teaching people how best to rebuild, and started a “1+1” campaign matching its employees’ donations.
In 2011, Sodimac placed seventh in PROhumana’s 2011 CSR rankings, and employees seem to appreciate its efforts. A recent poll asked Chilean workers to score their companies on how well they responded to the quake. Sodimac scored 4.17 out of 5 – well above average.
Also, in its daily work the company seeks to reduce the environmental impact throughout its operation, looking for an efficient use of resources. It works in reducing energy consumption in its stores through updated technology to deal with garbage and by reducting water consumption, and it also has other active programs that involve its employees, such as tree-planting in Santiago. The company belongs to the Climate bourse, an entity founded to promote “green markets” in Chile and Latin America, to reduce global warming.
Outdoor-clothing maker Patagonia has long been an environmental pioneer, promoting recycling and investing in conservation. The company aims for the cleanest operation possible in order to cause the least harm to the environment. It looks for innovative technologies, is a careful user of water and adheres to Swiss “bluesign” standard – which means evaluating and reducing resource consumption in its industrial process, screening raw materials and chemicals used in dyeing fabrics, and controlling water and air emissions in its production processes.
Patagonia also is leading a campaign called “Common Waters,” with alerts on the threats the consumer society puts on drinking water. “The more water we waste, the more habitat we destroy,” Patagonia says.
Also, the U.S.-based company has broken legal ground as a new kind of enterprise: a Benefit Corporation. Benefit Corporations have a legal purpose to create positive impacts on society and the environment. Their leaders must consider interests outside profits when making decisions. And they must report on social and environmental performance, using third-party standards. The so-called “B” status means that when Patagonia chooses suppliers, including factories in Colombia and other Latin nations, it must look at more than cost. And it commits to audits of its practices.
Founded by Swiss immigrants in 1945, Colombian dairy producer Alpina works with government agencies and non-profits such as Oxfam to help farmers and promote nutrition in low-income areas.
It’s active even in conflict-ridden indigenous reserves in Colombia’s northwest Cauca province. Alpina’s training and technical support have helped more than 500 indigenous farmers produce more goat milk and sheep milk and also more cheese – and with better quality. Alpina also invests in nutrition programs at its school near Bogota and in nutrition workshops held with community groups.
Strong outreach earned Alpina the 2010 CSR award from Colombian business newspaper Portafolio. Alpina has $800 million a year in revenue, has factories in three countries and exports to 20 nations.
As Mexico’s largest retailer and private employer, Walmart de Mexico sets a huge example by striving to use only renewable energy by 2025. It now relies on a Mexican wind farm for nearly 20 percent of its needs. And it has installed one of Latin America’s biggest solar-panel arrays on a store in Aguascalientes.
Walmart operates more than 2,000 stores in Mexico, and they posted $27.1 billion in sales in 2010, according to the Latin 500 from Latin Trade. The company wants zero waste by 2025 from that growing business, and it’s teaming with suppliers to reduce packaging and boost recycling. Walmart already recovers cooking oil from 242 of its restaurants and has the used oil converted to biodiesel, soap and a supplement for cattle feed.
Walmart’s sustainability push extends across its Latin Ame-rican operations. The company aims to buy more locally, from small companies and also from women. The Walmart Foundation spent $2.5 million last year to boost skills for women in six Latin nations so they can sell more to Walmart stores.
Mexico’s largest bank, BBVA Bancomer, directs 1 percent of its profit to CSR projects. That adds up for a bank with more than $94 billion in assets and $1.8 billion revenues in 2010, according to the Latin Trade’s bank ranking. Some of the bank’s CSR spending goes to financial education, but most of it goes to social programs.
Bancomer handles about 40 percent of Mexico’s multi-billion-dollar remittances yearly, so it reaches out to students in villages shrunk by out-migration. Its “Those Who Stay” program gives scholarships of about 1,000 pesos (US$78) a month, and it pairs recipients with bank employees who become their “padrinos”, or mentors. The program now operates in 18 Mexican states. Since 2006, it has helped 25,600 students at a cost of more than $44 million. Many youths have finished high school and opted not to leave the country. Surveys show that their mentors also bene-fit, Luisa Arredondo, director of the bank’s social development programs, tells Latin Trade. The program earned a 2011 international Stevie Award for CSR, presented in the United Arab Emirates.
Cementos Mexicanos ranks as the world’s biggest producer of ready-mix concrete and the third-largest producer of cement. Its revenue exceeds $14 billion a year. But the century-old behemoth knows that many low-income people still can’t afford its construction materials to build their own houses.
In 2000, Cemex launched “Patrimony Today,” offering micro-credits, plus technical and logistics support, to help families build. So far, it has extended $135 million in credit, allowing more than 265,000 families in Mexico, Colombia and other Latin countries to build their homes. About 60 percent of those people say they couldn’t have built without the program’s assistance. The effort earned Cemex a World Business Award from the International Chamber of Commerce in 2006 and a UN Habitat Business Award for accessible housing solutions in 2009.
Travel company Inkaterra pioneered eco-tourism in Peru in 1975, working to conserve the environment and native cultures. Now it is Peru’s first carbon-neutral travel company. It buys credits to offset its carbon emissions, spending on programs that preserve Amazon forests. Inkaterra runs several luxury hotels in Peru and involves its neighbors through training and jobs.
“We look forward to sharing our knowledge and wealth with the communities where we work,” founder Jose Koechlin tells Latin Trade. “The underlying goal is to empower locals.”
Inkaterra’s eco-efforts include a rescue center for endangered spectacled bears and restoring 12 acres of native forest that are home to hundreds of species of birds, butterflies and orchids. The company has trained more than 4,000 community members in hotel operations and conservation so far. Inkaterra earned a responsible-tourism award from the World Travel & Tourism Council in 2010 and recognition in Travel + Leisure magazine in 2011. The company had $14 million in revenue last year.
Who says mining and farming can’t co-exist? Canadian mining company Barrick Gold makes an effort to make it happen. Its “Productive Highlands” program helps resource-poor farmers in Peru’s Andean highlands (4,000 meters above sea level) by offering a set of 18 farming and water-conservation technologies. They include new irrigation practices and the use of organic fertilizers.
“Thanks to these technologies, many participating farmers now have two harvests a year: one for family consumption and the other to sell for profit in the market,” Barrick Peru spokesman Gonzalo Quijandria tells Latin Trade. More than 250 families have worked with Barrick’s farmer program, named first runner-up in the BBC News’ World Challenge Competition in 2010.
Barrick Peru has two gold mines in Peru producing more than $400 million a year in revenue. It also helps install clean, ventilated stoves in rural homes, where traditional wood-burning stoves remain a health-and-safety hazard. Almost 6,500 clean stoves have been installed so far.
ASTRID & GASTON
Peruvian chef Gaston Acurio owns the Astrid & Gaston restaurants, which have become gourmet destinations in several Latin American cities and also in Madrid. With the slogan “Everyone in Peru can be a cook,” Acurio helped start the Pachacutec Culinary Institute, Peru’s first public cooking school.
“Our goal is to educate low-income youth, not only in the kitchen but also with regard to their values,” school coordinator Rocio Heredia tells Latin Trade. Pachacutec takes its name from the shanty town in Lima’s outskirts, where the school is located. The institute received 700 applications this past year and accepted about 30 new students for its four-year program.
London-based magazine Monocle last year named the school, which is funded by donations, as the education initiative with the most global impact. A second school branch is opening in Peru’s city of Arequipa.
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