Hélio Mattar on Consume and Corporate Responsibility

Helio Mattar, president, Akatu Institute.
Hélio Mattar is the president of The Akatu Institute, a prominent Brazilian organization focused in raising awareness about conscious consume. He's also president of the Abrinq Foundation for children's rights and a founder of the Ethos Institute for Business and Social Responsibility; but mostly, he's obviously a very important figure in the field of social and environmental causes in Brazil, and a great thinker of issues within those areas.

In a recent interview with Brazilian website Planeta Sustentavel, he spoke about the change in the perception of consume as a key matter to sustainability and stated some interesting points about the sentimental implicances of changes in consume. "We are going to have to use our human abilities to express complex emotions in order to give meaning to our lives. We have to get out of a society in which people live to consume and become a society that consumes to live", he said.

During the interview, Mattar also referred to corporate responsibility and said he's optimistic about the role companies will have in sustainability once consumers realize the power they have.

Very interesting reading for inspiration. More in the extended.

Via Planeta Sustentavel. Picture: Eletronuclear.com.br.In the mentioned interview with Planeta Sustentavel, Mattar started talking about the importance of consume in the discussion about sustainability, something he identifies as the most important step society has taken over the last decade.

“The most important change we’ve seen during the past decade is the notion of the importance of consume in sustainability. Today consume is the central issue to achieve sustainability and the consumer is a central actor in the process, even in what refers to corporate responsibility: companies can only go in that direction if consumers and investors demand that behavior from them. If they don’t, then companies will focus on other, more urgent demands: price, quality, innovation, design and branding," he said.

Mattar said there are three causes for which people do not care about the environment: "They don’t know their behavior has significant impacts in society and the environment; they know that, but they don’t realize those are going to have an impact in their own lives; they know both those, but they find the problem too big for them to make a difference". In order to change that, adds Mattar, it is necessary "to assume we live in a hedonistic society", and point the warnings to individual consequences: "If people perceive they are going to be affected, they will change their habits easier".

"People find their consume is an expression of their identity. And changing that model means changing their identity. That’s why it seems so hard," the Brazilian expert explained. "It is common to hear someone say: 'I’ve worked all week, so I’m going to buy something for me because I deserve it'. But this person should deserve to have contact with a person he/she loves, listen to music, make music, read poetry, or share something intimate with someone. Human relationships have become contacts. So this change is not only in consume, is in the society model".

"We are going to have to use our human abilities to express complex emotions in order to give meaning to our lives. We have to get out of a society in which people live to consume and become a society that consumes to live," he added.

When talking about corporate responsibility, the president of The Akatu Institute said "corporate responsibility cannot be ideal."

"Social or environmental responsibility is imperfect because it involves relationships: the one between the company and the employee, with consumer, with community, with NGOs, with government and with providers. As it is a relationship, it can create non realistic expectations. As there is not perfection in corporate responsibility, it is important to value the best the company has done," Mattar told Planeta Sustentavel.

"It's easy to identify the companies that are true. A company's reputation is built from daily gestures, which show their principles. Those values are reflected in everything: the way it treats its employees, consumers, providers, the environment, community. So if a company does green propaganda and its principles don't have a solid base, that marketing won't last," he added.

Finally, Mattar said he believes companies will have a big role in the sustainability race. "I'm still very optimistic about the possibility that companies will be great sustainability agents in the world. But that will be possible when consumers and investors realize the power of their choice, and use that power everyday."

::Original article (in Portuguese) ::The Akatu Institute

The Akatu Institute's last advertising campaign, focusing on the importance of reducing garbage and watching our consume (in Portuguese)

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