Brazil-based Beraca was awarded one of the 2009 SEED Awards for Entrepreneurship in Sustainable Development, which are given by the United Nations. The company's project, “The Sustainable Use of Amazonian Seeds,” was selected from more than 1,000 initiatives of social and environmental responsibility worldwide. The award was created by the United Nations to recognize innovative projects that are environmentally responsible and promote sustainable practices in the areas where they operate.
In the fourth edition of this award, 20 local initiatives from across the developing world were selected among 1,100 projects by an independent international jury of sustainable development experts. Together, the winners cover a wide range of promising business models that aim to tackle poverty through the rational use of environmental resources. Beraca's winning project was developed in the Marajo Island in Northern Brazil. According to the company, the islanders have depended on fishing to guarantee their subsistence and suffer during periods of fish migration. Beraca saw an opportunity to transform the collection of andiroba seeds, a traditional practice in the region, into an alternative source of income for the communities, and by training residents and transferring technology, the company encouraged the creation of a cooperative called coopemaflima.
This project enables the extraction of oil from the seeds, which has important uses in the cosmetics industry, to be conducted within the community. Today, Beraca buys 500 tons of seeds from the cooperative every year, benefiting around 1,000 islanders. The result was an increase in the environmental awareness and in the profit of local populations, reducing their vulnerability to possible reductions in economic activity. Beraca also helped the community to obtain organic and environmental certifications for the raw materials collected, cooperating to an increment in the products’ added value.
"One of Beraca’s main commitments is to invest in projects that promote regional development. We are proud to represent Brazil in this major prize with a project that contributes directly to the preservation of the world's largest tropical forest,” said André Sabará, coordinator of corporate responsibility at Beraca, in a company press release. "It is only through partnerships that recognize the importance of investing in communities and cooperatives that we can promote the dignity, by creating awareness and preserving the environment," said Sabará.
According to assistant administrator of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Olav Kjørven, SEED Awards’ objective is to promote progressive businesses that are the seeds of future economies and are one of the key instruments that will contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. "This is an inspiring group of entrepreneurs who demonstrate that environmental sustainability and business can be synergistic goals," he said.
The SEED Award is the flagship program of the SEED Initiative, a partnership founded by the UNDP, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The SEED Initiative identifies and supports promising enterprises working in partnership in developing countries to improve livelihoods, combat poverty and marginalization and manage natural resources sustainably.