Now What? How Brazilian Brands Can Address Amazon Deforestation

Trends / Sustainability
Federico Roales
Mar 17, 2023
The Amazon Rainforest has often been referred to as “the lungs of the Earth” because of the amount of carbon dioxide it absorbs (more than 2 billion tons)1 and its essential role in maintaining the climate function, not only regionally, but also globally. In fact, the Amazon's trees release an estimated 20 billion tons of water2 into the atmosphere on a daily basis, stabilizing water cycles.

Despite its importance, the current situation is quite alarming: over the last four years, Brazil is responsible for the most destruction in the last 34 years3, reaching a 60% boom in Amazon deforestation rates. Environmental agencies have been dismantled4 and budgets for operations to fight environmental crimes have been slashed, allowing rampant wildfires to go out of control.

Not only have NGOs warned about the closeness to an irreversible tipping point, but Brazilian consumers have also expressed their concern about the serious environmental situation: according to our VisualGPS consumer survey, 3 in 5 Brazilians think that the planet will soon become uninhabitable due to climate change, and 7 in 10 stated that global warming will soon become a bigger issue.
Brazilian businesses can respond to deforestation
So, what’s going on amongst Brazilian businesses? Firstly, they seem to acknowledge the scale of the ongoing climate crisis. In 2022, at iStock, the term “Amazonia” had as many customer searches in Brazil as “World Cup”, while searches for “Amazon Rainforest” almost doubled compared to 2021. However, their download patterns don't match. Sustainable conservation topics only make up 3% of the most‑used visuals in Brazil. But the main shortfall is that companies insist on the worn‑out idea of promoting a “green life” through conceptual images of people holding plants symbolizing concern for the future of the planet. When there is such a large ecological disaster happening right in their backyard, Brazilian businesses can select visuals that represent their efforts to address the specific issue of deforestation in the Amazon.
Renewable energy alternatives
Nevertheless, the spotlight is focused now on sustainable energy alternatives: as the awareness about how limited natural resources are has increased, companies are interested in promoting eco‑friendly energy visuals. Searches for “solar energy” (ranked #70), “solar panel”, “green energy” or “renewable energy” have also risen considerably in 2022 among Brazilian iStock customers. It is worth noting that currently Brazil’s capacity to generate renewable energy is twice as higher as the world’s average5.

Yet, this interest in sustainable energy alternatives is not accurately represented by Brazilian customers’ visuals. Visual stories often feature young people involved in ecological practices, leaving aside senior adults. And instead of showing everyday contributions to care for the environment, such as recycling plastic bottles or shifting to eco‑friendly in‑house energy, companies are choosing abstract conceptual images to represent energy, too. From now on, the tangible power of a reusable bottle or an LED lightbulb are stronger images than an abstract image of a growing seedling.

So, what can brands do? To start, get involved and move from speech to action. According to our VisualGPS consumer survey, Brazilian consumers prefer that companies use sustainable packages, clean manufacturing practices, and also educate people about best practices to minimize their impact on the environment. Statements advocating for environmental awareness will become unhelpful if they are not followed by concrete visual storytelling, which can help lead by example. 
[1][2], WWF, 2022.
[3][4], Mongabay, 2022.
[5] Brazilian Government, 2022

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