InvestSP, the investment promotion agency for the state of São Paulo, has worked to refine an investment proposition that puts environmental sustainability at its heart, and therefore aims to pull away from a federal government that has come under fire for its reckless approach to environmental and social issues. President Wilson Mello (WM) and environmental manager José Pedro Fittipaldi (JPF) share insights into the current and future strategy of the organisation.

Q: How has InvestSP incorporated environmental sustainability into its structure?

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WM: At InvestSP we have a specific area dedicated to environmental issues. José Pedro Fittipaldi is our general manager for this specific area, a role we created in January 2019. We can analyse every single project through the prism of environmental sustainability. José Pedro is responsible not only for being a consultant to the investors to explain to them how the state of São Paulo operates when it comes to sustainability, but also to help them adapt and have more sustainable projects. The state of São Paulo has its own policy in terms of environmental protection, and we always try to convince the federal government that this subject is important.

Q: What kind of green economy projects are you prioritising?

WM: We are looking at things like, among others, solar energy and green fuel projects. At the moment, we have an active portfolio of 38 green economy projects worth $2.8bn and creating some 8500 new jobs. This bet on green projects is not about image and reputation, we are betting on the future of the economy. The economy is changing and after the pandemic it will change even further. We have to be prepared for that. One of the initiatives that we conducted at InvestSP, in full co-operation with the Secretary of Environmental in the state of São Paulo, is the so-called São Paulo Agreement, where we are bringing together companies with good projects and good sustainability policies.

JPF: We noticed that companies were doing many things in their sustainability agenda, but much of it wasn't being seen. We have world leaders in sustainability here, transnational companies implementing international policies. We're creating a best practice sharing structure so that companies can help each other develop their own practices, also considering international standards regarding things like emission monitoring, stakeholder relations, trade associations. We hope in this way to have more companies doing their inventories, more companies publishing their emissions data and acting to reduce their Co2 emissions.

WM: Just to give you one number, 105 companies and entities signed this deal – including multinational companies of the likes of Unilever, Danone, Nestlé. We are together in this effort to differentiate São Paulo from the rest of Brazil with regards to its approach to sustainability, or at least from the federal government.

Q: What is your vision of the economy post-Covid?

WM: My concern here is that after the pandemic investors will be eager to find good projects, while local authorities will need fresh resources. The competition for capital investment will be huge. We have to be ready to differentiate ourselves in order to get this money. Our approach to environmental sustainability will be key to differentiating São Paulo from the rest of Brazil or other countries. In this perspective, we have to be ready with good projects, good regulation, and good economic facilities.

Q: How are you supporting your base of investors in this market environment?

WM – This “new normal” will change everything, and we are adapting our strategic plan to this new reality. One thing we are doing is helping companies to understand today’s change and adjust accordingly.

We are also trying to do that with small entrepreneurs, because the future will be linked to small entrepreneurs and start-ups. Brazil will face a huge problem with employment, people are losing their jobs – it is happening everywhere in the world. They will have to find alternatives, and one of the alternative is opening their own business. We believe that the state of São Paulo is prepared for this new normal because we were already a new frontier for technology and technological investment in Brazil. As InvestSP, we ourselves run an accelerator programme for start-ups.

Wilson Mello is the president of InvestSP; and José Pedro Fittipaldi is environmental manager at InvestSP.

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