Sustainable model to aggregate value to non-timber forest products

In the early 2000 the rate of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon had reached alarming levels. A number of initiatives were needed to reduce this dramatic picture. In this context, a group of young entrepreneurs bet that creating sustainable businesses that use regional raw materials would be the best way to protect the forest and generate income for local communities. Thus, in 2002, Ouro Verde Amazônia was created with an initial focus on processing and adding value to Brazil nuts. The goal was to promote the collection of Brazil nuts by traditional communities providing an adequate income for such communities through fair trade practices.

To ensure a higher payout for suppliers and still ensure the economic feasibility of the Ouro Verde Amazônia, the entrepreneurs decided to focus on radical innovation and the development of high value-added products. With the support of FINEP (the Brazilian agency for R&D funding) and a partnership with the University of Sao Paulo, the company developed innovative products such as the 100% Brazil nut extra virgin oil, an initiative that would help the company win the Finep Award for technological innovation. In addition to the R&D efforts, the company obtained organic product certification for its entire product line. Finally, the company sought the Benefit Corporation certification and was the first B-corp certified enterprise in Brazil in 2012.

With the implementation of fair trade practices and the value added products that the company created, Ouro Verde was able to pay approximately 40% above average market prices to its suppliers. Several partnerships were made with different Amazon community organizations in the states of Mato Grosso, Pará, Rondônia and Amapá.

The company developed projects in partnership with institutions such as UNDP (United Nations Development Programme), GIZ (german agency for international cooperation) and ISA, among others, to improve the quality of the raw materials collected by the communities and the logistics and storage of these products, thereby increasing the prices that Ouro Verde could pay for these products and increasing income for the communities.

As a result of all these actions, the company has been honored with several awards and certificates, such as the Chico Mendes Award for Sustainable Businesses granted by the Ministry of the Environment and the New Ventures award granted by World Resources Institute.