June 2014

Based on the outskirts of the hulking Metropolis of Sao Paulo is one of the most surprising stops on this Social Innovation Journey, the cosmetics company Natura. Natura is a Brazil based company that utilises ingredients from the Amazon to encourage Brazilian consumers to part with their (often very) hard earned cash in the search for beauty. Let’s mull this over for a second, a cosmetics company using the precious natural resources of the world’s most diverse biome, in order to make a whacking great profit. Feeling nervous?

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I was in Singapore recently, participating in the CSR Asia Community Investment Forum that was focused this year on Building Partnerships. About 100 corporate, not for profit and academic sector leaders from around the region attended the Forum or the two-day partnership training that followed the event. As the person that had probably travelled the furthest to be there, the question I was asked most often was: Where does Asia fit in the partnership world – what do we do differently?

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Before visiting Brazil, had you asked me to describe a favela, the term for a slum in Brazil, most often within urban areas, I would have replied along the following lines... poorly constructed shanty towns whose inhabitants are desperate for escape but are trapped by poverty, drugs and violence. This is the story told around the World, magnified by the World Cup coverage and of course some of it is true.

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Sao Paulo as you might know is enormous! It’s the business capital of Brazil and they must do a lot of business, because there’s a lot of capital. There is also huge social inequality. World class restaurants, international brands and executive cars are everywhere in the centre, whilst deprivation permeates the outskirts of the city.

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The people of Brazil are conflicted. Football beats the collective heart of the country and the World Cup is on their soil. Although the opening match may not have elicited the beautiful game we have come to expect from the Brazilian national team, the result was to script. Despite this many Brazilians are angry.

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