Rio+20 Business Focus: Rio Pathfinders lead way in sustainable development in city’s poorest communities

Politicians make the policy. But it’s often left to business to implement it. For this reason RTCC is featuring submissions from business across the globe in the lead up to Rio+20.

The aim is to demonstrate how Sustainable Development is becoming a reality on every continent, country and city.

In today’s article the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (CEBDS) explain how the Rio Sustainability City project is helping to break new ground in developing innovative sustainable solutions for poorer communities.

Two low-income communities, pacified in 2009, located in the heart of Rio de Janeiro on the mountain right above the high end Leme neighborhood, are now experiencing groundbreaking sustainable development solutions.

Babilonia and Chapéu Mangueira are co-creating the Rio Sustainable City project together with the Brazilian chapter of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (CEBDS), in collaboration with City Hall and the State Government.

Two low-income communities in the heart of Rio are benefiting from groundbreaking sustainable development solutions

The project is being managed in partnership with Axia Sustainability.

The project gathers a diversified group of companies in CEBDS’s first hands-on project aimed at implementing innovative solutions to improve the community’s quality of life and which can be replicated throughout other urban areas around the world.

It’s major singularity remains on how initiatives are developed, along with what is developed. That is why it started with a community wide comprehensive research for CEBDS to be able to begin to understand what it’s social, cultural and economic profile was, as well as what they wished for most in their future.

7 steps to sustainability

The research results, several interviews with local leaders and with municipal, state and federal officials and specialists have led to the co-creation of seven initiatives: Sustainable Home Refurbishing, Green Urban Infrastructure, Organic Urban Agriculture, Tourism Development, Sustainability in the Home and School, Community Solid Waste Management and Local Entrepeneurship Development.

The projects aims to teach residents in the communities new skills and trades

Some of these initiatives have transversal developments and synergies which are being fully exploited and they all contemplate the triple bottom line imperative.

This has enabled the project to promote the perpetuation of the initiatives in these communities because they have their ownership and are able to understand how they will contribute to their social-economic sustainable development.

Since the project’s inception, the daily routine in both communities has been slowly changing. Residents involved in the Sustainable Home Refurbishing initiative, for instance, already know that Saturday is construction task force hands-on day.

The construction capacitation course students, totaling 120 individuals, out of which 30% are women, throw themselves at the task of supporting each other in the work of remodeling their homes.

Being trained in a new trade (presently on very high demand in the market), plus the necessary technical assistance provided by the project, access to credit, building materials close to cost and collaborative work, help residents be able to overcome serious limitations to improve their quality of life.

Building a better future

José Tavares is 48 yrs old, lives with his wife and daughter and works as a doorman in a nearby building.

When he decided to enroll in the masonry course he envisioned an opportunity for a happy ending to a frustrating experience when, a while back, he hired a mason to remodel his home.

Sadly the man hit the road with the job unfinished – half-built walls with no windows.

“He left the work half-done. But now we can do something, I want to help my colleagues because I know they will help me back” José said.

Like José, Marlene also had the refurbishing of her home, where she lives with her sister and two nieces, interrupted after the death of her brother-in-law in 1998.

At 61 years of age, retired, she decided to learn a new trade to turn her life around. “I want to help take care of our home again.

I am going back to work, as a mason, have created a group, posted it on the internet, and we have already received a job request”, she said.

João Batista, a retired professional driver, enrolled to learn the plumber trade. He is also seizing the opportunity to be part of the Organic Urban Agriculture initiative, to grow organic vegetables on his roof slab.

Learning new trades have helped people like Marlene turn their lives around

The structural soundness of the slab to support the extra weight has been evaluated by the

technical assistance team, and it’s weatherproofing will be executed by João himself and other colleagues.

Not only is he learning a new profession in this project, but also putting the empty space on his roof slab to good work with the organic garden group.

Together with José and João Batista, Adriane, at the age of 42, is always present at the Saturday task-force groups.

She works as a house maid, takes the masonry course in the afternoon, and goes to night school to finish high-school. With no money to pay for the work, she can now resume her dream of a nice and comfortable home.

“The technical assistance team has given me great hints, like changing the bathroom door placement to allow for more ventilation. Every day I learn something new in the course. I want to grow in life!” says Adriane happily.

 This article is part of a series commissioned by the Rio Conventions for their RioPlus Business project.

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