Brazilian industry to demonstrate environmental advantage through new carbon and water footprinting scheme

The scheme is operated by the Brazilian National Standards Organisation (ABNT) and has been designed with assistance from leading international sustainability experts from the Carbon Trust. The scheme is supported by the Brazilian government’s Ministry of Development, Industry and Foreign Trade (MDIC) and funding for its creation was provided by the UK government’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

Organisations that successfully complete certification under the scheme will be eligible to use ABNT’s new labels to communicate achievements in measuring the life cycle carbon emissions or life cycle water use associated with their products.

Companies based in Brazil are often able produce products with considerably lower environmental impacts than those manufactured in other parts of the world. This is because the country has harnessed its natural resources to provide vast quantities of low carbon electricity, with most of the country’s power supplied by hydroelectric plants.

Being able to provide evidence of lower environmental impact can give Brazilian business a significant export advantage, especially in carbon-intensive heavy industry. These advantages are expected to increase as organisations around the world take increasing levels of action to reduce carbon emissions to meet international ambitions to tackle climate change.

The scheme may also have a positive impact on sales in Brazil’s domestic market, as it allows companies to show favourable comparisons with potentially cheaper imported products from markets such as China and India, where the electricity inputs are often provided by dirty fossil fuels such as coal.

The two year pilot engaged companies across the aluminium, steel, glass, cement and chemicals sectors. This resulted in developing effective footprinting tools and a robust methodology that currently spans 9 product categories and 16 subcategories. Participants came from a range of organisations, from smaller enterprises through to multinational companies and some of Brazil’s largest businesses, including Braskem, CSN, Saint-Gobain, ArcelorMittal, Votorantim Cimentos and Novelis.

Carlos Gadelha, MDIC’s Secretary of Development and Production, said:

We think about certification as an effective way for Brazilian companies to optimise their supply chain, taking into consideration global best practice for low carbon development. As they achieve certification and use the label, Brazilian companies will then be able to add credibility to their brands when selling to foreign markets which are typically more demanding in terms of environmental credentials, such as the UK and Scandinavian countries.

Antonio Carlos de Oliveira Barros at ABNT, said:

“Going through a footprinting and certification process can bring a number of practical benefits to a business, such as identifying areas of inefficiency where improvements and cost savings can be made, improving their reputation with customers, or pre-empting supply chain risks. Just as importantly it helps companies to play their part in taking action on some of the serious sustainability issues facing Brazil and the wider world today.

“The companies that achieve certification will set clear benchmarks for what can be achieved with good practice today in Brazil. This will help to define our ambitions for what is possible in the future, helping inform meaningful targets for improvement that will drive investment into greater efficiency and emissions reductions across the supply chain.”

Martin Barrow, Head of Footprinting at the Carbon Trust, said:

“We are very pleased to be able to share the experience and lessons the Carbon Trust has learned through working on a number of similar international schemes across Europe, Asia and Latin America with Brazil. There is a great opportunity for Brazilian companies to take a global leadership role in manufacturing the lower carbon products the world will need, as we balance the need for economic development with the challenge of climate change. We hope this scheme will be a practical tool for helping businesses in Brazil to grow their profits and make ongoing reductions to their environmental impact.”