Brazil Special Report: Where Does Stuff Come From?

Natural Beauty of Brazil
Bromeliads grow along a stream in Bocaina National Park, Atlantic Forest, Brazil. Photographer: Tui de Roy/Minden Pictures/Natural Geographic

Central to sustainability is a deceptively hard question: Where does stuff come from?

Global companies are spending enormous time and effort learning to answer this question with precision. For example, almost three-dozen companies, including Ford Motor Co., IBM Corporation and Ikea Corporation, recently "road tested" a new set of guidelines for calculating and disclosing the emissions associated with their global supply chains. (The project is called the Corporate Value Chain (Scope 3) Accounting and Reporting Standard of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol Initiative.) To disclose their impacts, companies have to know where their stuff comes from.

An enormous amount of this stuff -- raw materials and food -- comes from Brazil, the focus of this month's Special Report. This nation of 195 million people leads the world in a breathtaking diversity of categories. First in orange-growing. First in coffee. First in Sugar. Second in iron-ore exports. Second in soybean production. Economic success has lifted millions of Brazilians out of poverty, even as it has led to problems -- such as the global environmental impacts of deforesting 18 percent of the Amazon rainforest since 1970.

Bloomberg Sustainability News will return again and again to Brazil, so we thought it the best place to kick off our first country-themed package. The editors of this page are privileged to have Bloomberg colleagues in our Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo bureaus, who reported and wrote the articles in this series.

Matthew Bristow and Juan Pablo Spinetto give an overview of the Brazilian resource economy and the challenges of distributing natural wealth. Bristow has been working for Bloomberg News in Brasilia since 2010, writing about the Brazilian central bank and other economic news, having served a previous tour in Bogota. Spinetto, a Bloomberg journalist since 2004, is part of the commodities team for Latin America, covering from Rio de Janeiro mining and metals companies, such as Vale SA and EBX Group Co.

Peter Millard shows us Brazil’s challenge of jumpstarting a shipbuilding industry to help tap the country's recent oil discoveries. Millard is Bloomberg News' bureau chief in Rio de Janeiro and has been covering Brazil's oil industry for two years. Millard previously covered the oil industries in Mexico and Venezuela and has worked as a Latin America-based journalist since 1995.

Lucia Kassai reports from Sao Paulo that the world’s biggest coffee producer is about to become its biggest consumer. She has worked for Bloomberg for 2 1/2 years, covering oranges, coffee, sugarcane and the other soft commodities.

Kim Chipman and Sophia Yan explain the state of Amazon deforestation, a concern far beyond Brazil’s borders. Chipman is a Washington-based reporter who has been at Bloomberg News since 1997. In addition to writing about climate change issues since 2005, she's covered the EPA, the U.S. labor movement, the 2008 presidential race and the Obama White House. Yan covers government spending in energy, including loan guarantees, tax credits, grants, contracts, and R&D funding. She joined Bloomberg in 2010.

Rayond Colitt and Stephan Nielsen show why the Brazilian ethanol industry is struggling at a moment of great opportunity. Colitt has covered Latin America for 20 years, from earthquakes to stock exchanges, Chavez to Lula. He works in Brasilia after stints in Quito, Caracas and Sao Paulo. Nielsen covers renewable energy in Latin America and is based in Bloomberg’s Sao Paulo bureau.

Adriana Brasileiro wrote about wealthy Brazilians building homes in nature preserves for the latest edition of Bloomberg Markets magazine. She covers investment banking for Bloomberg News in Rio de Janeiro.

Read the full Special Report.

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