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SUSTAINABLE DISRUPTION

MATHIAS AZEREDO DE ALMEIDA
Sustainability Director, Marfrig Global Foods
Participant at the SAO PAULO OPPORTUNITY PANEL

“In the short term, sustainability is good for the company in a marketing sense, and in the medium- and long-term sustainability ensures that you have a product in the future.” This mindset neatly captures Mathias approach to sustainability. He has led the sustainability efforts of the Brazilianbeef trader Marfrig since Greenpeace launched a 2009 report castigating Marfrig, Bertin, JBS, and other leading cattle companies for driving Amazon deforestation and
climate change.

WORKING THE VALUE CHAIN
In response to Greenpeace’s fierce criticism, Marfrig – the world’s fourth-largest beef trader – immediately took a lead in ending destruction in the Amazon. “We are trying to develop the idea that by buying from farmers who are responsible, people will support the cause of fighting deforestation and environmental damage.” The company’s entire value chain has undergone dramatic changes to protect bothlabourers and the planet. Mathias hopes to encourage the entire industry to think differently: “We cannot solve this problem alone. We are sharing the results and benefits to get more awareness from people, and after COP21, I expect we will see more commitments from other companies, too.”

For Mathias, these initiatives are driven by measured calculation rather than moral obligation. “I am not an environmentalist,” he asserts. Rather, he understands that if his industry does not take care of the environment, there will be no business to run in a few decades. “For the meat industry, sustainability is really a strategic issue. Not everyone realises this, but they will.” Indeed, sustainability and business are becoming increasingly interlinked, according to Mathias. “Sustainability is facilitating business, and this trend will only increase,” he predicts. “While quality of the end product is the most important thing for sales now, in 20 years, sustainability will be just as important.”

SHIFTING VALUES
“What drives this change is really the consumer, because businesses will always be driven by the bottom line. After all, sustainability is important, but we need economics.”

While a company like Marfrig is driven by the demands of big buyers like Sainsbury’s and McDonald’s, the end consumers set the agenda. That is why civil engagement is crucial. “We are going through changing times, but the future will depend a lot on consumers.”

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