IPÊ Sustainable Business Unit turned 20 in 2023. The initiative has now established itself as an area of innovation in partnerships at the institution, with projects that have become a reference for the third sector and for areas of sustainability and ESG at companies.
Since 2003, through UNS, IPÊ has performed over 30 institutional partnerships and dozens of campaigns that have resulted in direct socio-environmental benefits and contributed to increasing our cause visibility throughout Brazil and other countries.
The unit’s creation took place at a time of change of the national scenario, in relation to support for socio-environmental projects such as IPÊ. Furthermore, the growth of the institution and our expansion to other biomes besides the Atlantic Forest encouraged searching for new dynamics of fundraising with no restrictions, which would allow investment-based development in strategic areas such as the professionalization of sustainable businesses with communities to product marketing, Cause-Related Marketing (CRM) partnerships and Institutional Communication.
“This beginning was only possible due to the fundamental support from Fundação Avina, which believed in our innovative proposal presented by Suzana Padua, president of IPE and leader of the organization. The investment contributed was exclusively destinated for institutional strengthening, which guaranteed training the area professionals, hiring people and the formation of a base that gave us reliability to move forward”, says Andrea Peçanha, coordinator of UNS, who led the creation of the sector .
Implementing an innovative nucleus, however, presents internal and external challenges. “That was all new for the organization, outside our scope of action up to that time, so it required a certain amount of audacity and persistence from the leadership involved. Footing and support of the board and some members of the Council were essential for us to overcome resistance from part of the staff, ensuring that the partnerships would follow criteria, and our mission and our values would in fact be relevant to the cause”, comments Andrea.
Still in 2003, UNS began a partnership with Grupo Martins, from Uberlândia, and that led to the donation of Maíra I boat, the organization’s first corporate donation. The following year, IPÊ settled its first Cause-Related Marketing partnership: Havaianas. This partnership gave rise to the Havaianas-IPÊ collection, a greatsuccess story. The brand has been together with IPÊ for 19 years. To date, 21 collections were already launched, portraying 57 native species of Brazilian fauna. 7% of the net profit goes back to IPÊ from the sale of flip-flops. By 2022, more than 10 million reais had been transferred, used to strengthen our institution. The partnership is a success story on how to develop intersectional partnerships and how supporting causes creates value for everyone involved.
In the wake of this great partnership and with the growth of private sector involvement in socio-environmental causes, other companies started actions together with IPÊ: Danone, Faber Castell, Nespresso, Movimento Arredondar, Bimbo, Correios, among others, are part of this portfolio. Brazilian initiative by MRC Danoninho para Plantar was recognized as a success story in France and the study on Ecosystem Services, performed together with Danone, was awarded as an innovative sustainability initiative by Exame magazine.
Along this path, there was constant learning for the organization and its partners. “That was great innovation. Working together with the private sector meant a closer approach to building strategic partnerships, through direct and usual format and language for the business sector that we need to adapt to. At the same time, companies began to understand the operation of an NGO, the projects timelines, which is often nature’s time, and also started looking at biodiversity with strategic and encompassed vision.”
In addition to business partnerships, UNS develops projects with communities to increase local income generation, helping to professionalize entrepreneurs and commercialize their products. As examples, we have the projects Costurando o Futuro, Café Agroflorestal (originated from Café com Floresta, from the Pontal do Paranapanema Agroforestry Systems project) and, more recently, Navegando Educação Empreendedora na Amazônia, together LinkedIn. The actions directly benefit a total of 30 families.
“Bringing education and training to the market has always been one of UNS’s roles. We have had good results with this initiative, which supports entrepreneurs and their sustainable businesses, contributing to forest regeneration and less impact on biodiversity. Not to mention that it contributes to the appreciation of local cultures”, says Andrea.
From 2021 to 2023, UNS renewed projects that were already underway and expanded its fundraising front with individual donation campaigns. In 2024, IPÊ is preparing a major celebration for Havaianas-IPÊ’s 20th anniversary.
“We have a lot to celebrate from these 20 years of UNS. IPÊ is today a better known organization than it was 20 years ago, and this is also due to the structuring of communication work initiated by the Unit. We were ahead of our time in many ways and this also made us a reference in partnerships with the private sector, especially through CRM. We significantly contribute to strengthening the IPÊ brand, with differentiated actions, reaching different audiences that we could not otherwise.”
For the future, Andrea believes that the potential to expand partners for the socio-environmental cause is even greater in light of the climate crisis currently faced and which requires the response of companies, their brands and the participation of their consumers for change and collaboration with socio-environmental projects, which can support coping actions.