Institutional support for environmental initiatives supports the actions of the São Paulo Association of Supermarkets (APAS)
The RIGCOM (Institutional, Governmental, and Communication Relations) area of the São Paulo Supermarket Association (APAS) has a series of challenges due to the breadth of its actions. Nevertheless, due to the nature of advocacy, it also brings numerous strategic possibilities for allowing a plural view, something even more nerve-racking when it comes to a class entity that, among the challenges, seeks to maintain the best regulatory environment for business while increasing the reputational mattress of the sector it represents: the complex supermarket sector. In fact, the strategic relevance of this area stands out when contextualized in the numbers of the industry that APAS represents. In the state of São Paulo alone, the supermarket sector directly employs more than 575,000 people, collects more than 9 billion BRL in taxes, and accounts for 2.44% of the domestic GDP.
To ensure that this essential service can supply society safely and without interruption, APAS pays special attention to sustainability, as climate change has affected the production chain and distribution of food worldwide. These extreme weather events have become increasingly frequent. They have altered the seasonality and availability of food, putting food security at risk on our planet, especially for those living in developing countries.
Brazilians can always relate to the rice inflation in 2020. The drought that occurred 27,000 kilometers away from Brazil, in the rice-producing region of Thailand, one of the largest producers in the world, caused a 25% drop in the production of the local commodity, which generated an unprecedented demand for Brazilian grains. The environment has no borders, and constant frosts, fires, droughts, and floods have changed the natural order of supply and demand, raising prices in periods that would typically be deflation for certain products and even causing shortages of some foods. This is food insecurity, a critical situation widely fought by APAS for compromising individual and collective health and even the development of a country.
Food insecurity is worsening, with 811 million people suffering from the effects of hunger worldwide and 2.3 billion (30% of the population) without access to water and adequate food, two central aspects of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals in Brazil. The annual report of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) confirms the trend of increasing undernourished people due to extreme climatic variations, among other reasons.
Sustainability being an institutional cause for APAS, since 2015, at COP 21 in Paris, we are signatories of the UN Global Compact, when we align the objectives of the São Paulo supermarket sector with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In 2019, on the eve of COP25, in Madrid, we adhered to the São Paulo Environmental Agreement, promoted by the Government of the State of São Paulo, through the Secretariats of Infrastructure and Environment, International Relations, and CETESB. The agreement aims to encourage companies in São Paulo to make voluntary commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote sustainability actions. Sustainability actions are increasingly present in the sector since APAS is part of the Environmental Chamber for Climate Change (CAMC) of CETESB. Among the incentives and support APAS provides to supermarket associates, reverse logistics stands out by creating Voluntary Delivery Points (PEVs) in the supermarkets, a traditional and affectionate point of contact between the industry and the consumer. Another one is updating and exchanging equipment that uses HCFC (hydrochlorofluorocarbons) and HFC (hydrofluorocarbons) refrigerant fluids, in line with the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol.
At COP 26, in addition to the institutional and governmental relationship to create a positive and purposeful agenda for future sectoral advances, APAS sponsored the parallel event promoted by CETESB, launching a book about 56 success cases in São Paulo. One of the 56 successful cases reported by CETESB is that of the supermarket movement that gave rise to Law 15,374/2011, regulated by Decree 55,827/2015, which prohibited the free distribution or sale of plastic bags to consumers in all commercial establishments in the city of São Paulo, creating a new reusable model that has been marketed at cost price.
With consumers in mind, APAS carried out a communication campaign to raise awareness about the use of plastic. This change in the habit of residents of São Paulo reduced the use of plastic bags in the city by 84.4%. Annually 94,250 tons of CO2 are no longer released into the atmosphere, and 27,500 tons of solid plastic waste stop polluting São Paulo’s rivers and streams. They no longer accumulate in landfills and degrade in methane gas and ethylene when exposed to climatic conditions. This pioneering municipal law, stimulated and articulated by APAS, has inspired governments across Brazil and was fully adopted in the states of Rio de Janeiro and Pará.
Communication, as part of the Institutional, Governmental, and Communication area of APAS, is present in each of the actions discussed in this text, from the institutional relationship in the technical process – concerning sustainability -, through the government relationship with members the legislative and executive, to the industrial positioning, either through the press or directly with the consumer in the supermarkets themselves.