Corporate Social Responsibility

After a decade of contributing to the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) movement, in 2010 Fundación Avina began a study to collect best practices from corporations and governments throughout Latin America. In May of 2011, Avina published results from the study in the publication, In Search of Sustainability: The Road of Corporate Social Responsibility in Latin America and Fundación Avina’s Contribution.

The research covers the progress of CSR in Latin America and follows its evolution, identifying organizations that have successfully mobilized to effect positive change in corporate behavior. The vision that all of the Latin American participants share revolves around sustainable business and environmental practices that are positive for profits, people and the planet.

Mercedes Korin, a noted CSR specialist in the region, directed the study together with Fundación Avina, surveying a large number of respondents active in the corporate social responsibility movement from both business and community groups. Participantes recognized the leadership role of Avina in establishing and promulgating the burgeoning CSR culture in Latin America.

 

 

The South American Chaco is a region that is rich in social and environmental
diversity, with abundant water reserves, energy and agricultural production.

The South American Chaco

The South American Chaco is the largest continuous dry forest in the world and the greatest wooded area in South America after the Amazon. The Chaco is a region rich in social and environmental diversity, with abundant water reserves, ample energy sources and fertile land for agriculture. The debate now raging in the region regarding land use is how to balance large-scale extraction of raw materials extraction to meet growing global demand with the conservation of natural resources, and the preservation of traditional ways of life for local people.

Encompassing parts of Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay and a small portion of Brazil, the Chaco eco-region faces a number of problems and challenges including political isolation and widespread poverty among its rural population. Growing urbanization of the rural and indigenous people is creating new wealth in the region, but the social and environmental costs of modernization can be steep in terms of natural resource exploitation and abuse. Despite legislation in each of the region's countries to protect natural resources, the Chaco forest still suffers a high rate of deforestation and degradation, while its native people are forced to abandon their land.

In the last ten years, Avina and its allies have identified and supported sustainable production projects that demonstrate the compatibility of land conservation and agricultural production in the region. Avina has connected Chaco groups in the various countries into an international network, both through in-person meetings and long-distance collaboration.

Regional alliances are already producing victories for conservation. An alliance between Avina and the Forest Bank (Banco de Bosques) connected more than 50 environmental organizations with businessmen, scientists, thought leaders and politicians. The mobilization ultimately led the legislature of the Argentinean province of the Chaco at the end of 2011 to protect 148,000 acres of Chaco land for the creation of a natural preserve, with the ultimate objective of turning Estancia La Fidelidad into a national park. A portion of this area will be set aside to resolve the land and water problems of neighboring rural communities.
The provincial government, in partnership with business leaders, established an innovative method for raising funds to make the land purchase. In a nod to the organizing work of local groups in the region, Argentina's National Parks Administration called it "the first Argentinean national park created at the people’s request."

This recent success story and others like it demonstrate the value of a proactive convergence of regional interests that upholds the respect and rights of the Chaco people while creating a more inclusive, sustainable and responsible economy.

 

 

During the First National “Youth for the Yasuní” Conference, more than 80 youth
representatives of Ecuador were encouraged to design specific projects for the
conservation of the National Park.

Climate Change

There is an increased worldwide awareness that climate change is one of the most significant problems currently facing humanity. Current rates of consumption simply exceed the planet’s capacity to regenerate natural resources by as must as 50% or more in a given year. At the same time, greenhouse emissions from production cycles continue to rise. As a consequence, we are facing an era of increasing shortage against a backdrop of climate change. These forces require us to rethink the way we live on the planet.

Together with its allies, Avina seeks to coordinate action that influences public policy promotes innovative economic models marked by low carbon emissions and encourages responsible behavior.

Avina's cooperative approach was on display in August of 2011 when the government of Ecuador, the local government of Orellana and numerous civic groups joined forces for land conservation in Ecuador's Yasuní National Park. During the first “National Youth for the Yasuní Conference”, more than 80 youth representatives from across Ecuador were called upon by Ecuador's Vice President Lenin Moreno to develop specific actions for the conservation of the park. Vice President Moreno was joined at the conference by Ivonne Baki, the president's representative for the Yasuní ITT initiative. Also at the conference were the United Nations' resident coordinator, the UNESCO delegate for Andean countries, and numerous officials from Educador's Ministry of Environment.

Through this initiative, youth leaders and their organizations in the Amazon territories are learning firsthand how conservation can generate new financial opportunities. The mobilization of youth in Ecuador demonstrates to the entire population, how economic progress and environmental protection can occur simultaneously in the Yasuní and elsewhere on the continent and around the world.

The leading role played by Fundación Avina in these efforts has also led some local authorities in the region to seek out Avina as a partner to help design responses to the challenge of climate change. For example, Avina last year signed a letter of commitment to support metropolitan authorities in Lima in preparing its climate change strategy. Lima's environmental management policies will call for practices that mitigate the effects of climate change in the province. The final statement of strategy will be prepared within the framework of Lima's Metropolitan Technical Committee, specifically formed for this purpose and composed of representatives from the central government, metropolitan authorities and civic groups, as well as leaders from business and academia. Avina provides additional resources to support and energize the committee's work, including hiring a small team of specialists to promote communication among experts in the region.

 

 

“Campos de Miel”, one of the family entrepreneurial undertakings in emigration
communities, supported by Oxfam in Zacatecas, Mexico. These inclusive businesses
encourage financial development in migrants’ home communities and promote the
return of those who live abroad.

Migrations

There is no coordinated legal and institutional framework in the region to protect migrants and allow them to exercise their rights as citizens. This only intensifies the suffering of those who are already uprooted, leaving migrants vulnerable to abuse, extortion, murder, kidnapping and other human rights violations, even slavery.

Among the objectives of Avina’s strategy regarding migration is to increase communication and cooperation between civic activist groups throughout Latin America and representatives of migrant groups and organizations. By uniting efforts, these groups are finding opportunities to engage in dialogue with public officials on matters of immigration policy, social relief and broader economic concerns. Essential for this process to work is the inclusion of the business perspective, since commercial enterprises must develop inclusive and sustainable business and financial practices, balancing growth and modernization with humanity and social responsibility.

Successful models, once identified and tested, can be adapted and scaled by other organizations and governments. Experiences of migrant unions in the Mexican states of Zacatecas and Oaxaca inspired migrants to organize in Guanajuato and Tlaxcala. These migrant groups seek to strengthen their local economies while promoting access and fairness for migrants. Their experiences serve as a reference point for other local groups to promote similar strategies. By advocating for favorable development conditions throughout Mexico, Central America and the rest of Latin America, community leaders from around the region are joining forces to advance the causes of environmental protection and human dignity.

In 2011, Avina recognized the Guanajuato Migrant Center (Casa del Migrante Guanajuatense) in the state of Guanajuato and the Migrant Family Service Center (Centro de Atención a la Familia Migrante, or CAFAMI) in Tlaxcala for their promotion of a more effective and productive matching of local skills with public and private resources (including remittances) for local development in migrants’ home communities. Oxfam Mexico, along with other allies, is working to strengthen the efforts of local migrant groups to increase economic opportunity at home.

Several innovative migrant businesses have been started as a result of these efforts, from those that manufacture bath robes and clothes made from mixed fibers, to the production of industrial footwear. In Tlaxcala, 172 migrant housewives have launched profitable enterprises thanks to collaboration with local groups. The Ometoxco savings bank has tripled the number of its members and has expedited microloans to members of the migrant association.
Other major steps forward in Mexico in the past year include a business to produce ecological stoves that save wood, and a doubling in the number of migrants in the United States who send money remittances for small business development back home, through a program that donates USD 1 to CAFAMI each time a migrant sends money home The National Social Development Institute (Instituto Nacional de Desarrollo Social) of the federal government of Mexico has also increased legal aid for individuals in their communities of origin.

In many cases, state and local governments where migrants live have been key participants in these pilot initiatives, viewing them as a potent force for promoting both economic and social development.