Seminar on Sustainable Development 2014

Last week I attended a 3-day seminar in the center of Rio de Janeiro. The goal of the seminar was to stimulate the debate around the challenges related to the sustainable development agenda in Brazil, including the establishment of the new UN goals and issues related to the strategies of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), an international platform which was launched by the United Nations in August 2012. The seminar was organised by the University UFRRJ and was attended by teachers and students, as well as professionals in the public, private and third sector active in the area.

The program included a broad variation of topics: recycling, agriculture, sanitation, solar energy, mining, eco-villages, forest laws and sustainable home renovations. This illustrates, I think, how sustainability is in its infancy in Brazil. We are still defining the concept and relevancy of sustainability. For example, most of the projects presented in the seminar lacked a monitoring system or a baseline study, and were therefore unable to show the project impact. Companies, on the other hand, seem to regard sustainability as charity; an extra mile that can be made for vague added values. Only the German Hans Rausschmayer who talked about solar panels presented us with numbers: the cost, the amount of generated energy and the return on investment. I think it is very important that people who start these projects realize the power of numbers. Everybody will say yes to the question if they want to save the planet, but as soon as it costs money they want to see what they’ll get in return.

The seminar did give a nice outline on how sustainability lives in Brazil and which challenges are on the way towards a more sustainable society. Seminars like this are of utmost importance for knowledge-sharing on this topic, it enables us to learn from each other’s experiences, to define the pitfalls and best practices. This knowledge-sharing doesn’t stop at the national border. I encourage all Brazilians to broaden their scope and see what is there to learn from other countries. In Brazil we are struggling to ‘sell’ sustainability to the corporate world and to include the private sector. Exactly this challenge was the topic of the international conference Business meets Biodiversity in 2012 that I attended, and I think this is a key issue on which to keep on exchanging.

You can download the Seminar program  here.


  1. Danilo Eccard says:

    Hi Anne :)

    So, another thing that I think is important to speak here. Its about brazilian culture, as brazilian, I think that sustainable projects, as we can see in other countries (like circular economy and others) are in a advanced way of thinking, in brazil, the culture of sustainable agriculture is more advanced, as we checked up in another panel that was presented in the seminar, wasnt it?
    Its up to us, young and interested people, to talk more about this and advance in other ways of thinking :)

  2. Hi Danilo,
    Thank you for your reaction. I think you absolutely have a point. I said sustainability is in its infancy in Brazil, but this is a generalization. On agricultural field a lot of progress is made, (indeed the presentation of Embrapa was showing some advanced sustainable agriculture projects) and it is important for us to keep exchanging on that in order to take it to the next level.

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