Brazil’s economy has been a rollercoaster. The Economist followed the country’s skyrocketing prowess in “Brazil Takes Off” (2009), and then examined its apparent crash in “Has Brazil Blown It?” (2013). The first article features Brazil’s meteoric rise to glory as the BRIC that barely hiccupped when the economy collapsed, growing 7.5 percent in 2010. The second chronicles its abrupt landing in reality last year, when growth was skimpier than a string bikini and crowds were protesting the high cost of living and poor public services.
Can Brazil Fix it?
Yes, according to Fabio Barbosa, CEO of Grupo Abril, one of Latin America’s largest media conglomerates, but it will take a shift in mindset. Solving problems with jeitinho just won’t work anymore. People, especially those in leading positions, will have to be much more proactive in shaping the country Brazil seeks to become. The business of business must be sustainable business, Barbosa said, appealing to about 12,000 business leaders and influencers who recently attended SAP Forum, Latin America’s largest technology event.
An exemplar of sustainable business practices, Barbosa was the mastermind behind the integration of Banco Real and ABN AMRO when they were acquired by Santander, and was instrumental in making corporate social responsibility central to the bank’s brand. As a result, in 2006, Financial Times named Banco Real the most sustainable bank of the year, and in 2013, named Santander the most sustainable global bank of the year with Brazil as the regional winner in the Americas.
Technology and entrepreneurship are part of the solution
One way to shape the new Brazil is to foster inclusive business, as many jobs in emerging economies are created by small enterprises. Business leaders like Barbosa and Cristina Palmaka, managing director of SAP Brazil, believe in improving society through innovation. Both leaders are keen supporters of SAP’s Emerging Entrepreneurs Initiative, a program designed to fuel entrepreneurial growth through technology education, software donations and funding from Endeavor Brazil.
The businesses in the initiative drive social transformation through their products, services and their ability to generate much needed jobs. One great example is Solidarium, an online marketplace founded by Tiago Dalvi that connects artisans directly with a network of globally recognized design studios and retailers, such as Walmart and JCPenny. This program will help build economic opportunity for many of the more than 8 million artisans in Brazil who live below the poverty line. Other examples of emerging entrepreneurs in the program include a company that fights endemic diseases, a tracker of food supply chains, an agricultural company that seeks to diminish environmental impact, and an employment agency that services applicants entirely through their mobile phones.
Millennials are the leaders of tomorrow
The Wall Street Journal recently dubbed Brazil the social media capital of the universe because Brazilians are hyper-social, and they love technology. Last year, 67 million Brazilians accessed the mobile Internet; they also bought more than 5 million tablets and 21 million smartphones. Internet users are very young: 18 percent are under 24, and 25% are between 25 and 34. Tiago and the other entrepreneurs in the program belong to that generation and understand the power of technology. These young people may not have all the answers, but they have what it takes to shape a new society: ideas, skills and the right mindset regarding sustainable business. All they need is a little help from like-minded banks, businesses and other entities that can help them develop, thrive and, most of all, create jobs in enterprises with progressive environmental and human rights policies. The innovative startups in the program today will lead the world tomorrow.
And yes, they can shape the country Brazil seeks to become: a bold and daring leader of sustainable entrepreneurship!