Brazil’s Booming Progress: A Look at the Country’s Rise

Key developments for Brazil in domains such as financial innovation, environmental sustainability, and agribusiness were also on full display throughout the weekend.

“It’s a very entrepreneurial society,” Roberto Sallouti, W’94, said during a keynote conversation with Wharton Dean Erika James. Sallouti, CEO of a financial services firm called BTG Pactual, was the chair of this year’s Forum.

Within finance, lowering transaction costs and increasing access to banking products are important areas of focus.

“Technology will reduce transaction costs tremendously,” Joao de Mello, partner at Opportunity Asset Management, said during a panel titled Innovations in Finance.

His work at the Central Bank of Brazil to introduce its instant payment platform Pix in 2020 has helped lead the way on this front. At the same time, technology has great potential to reach unbanked individuals who have historically lacked access to capital, said Rosanna Ramos-Velita, WG’92, G’92, president of the board of Latin American microfinance institution Caja Los Andes.

“It’s about trying to figure out how we structure products for people who already save but in a different way than we do,” Ramos-Velita said.

Alternative methods of saving, she added, historically haven’t been considered for underwriting and regulatory purposes, but advances in technology and data could help better evaluate them.

An ongoing issue for Brazil, activity in the Amazon rainforest over the past two decades has resulted in the loss of an area within the country that is bigger than the state of California. During a panel titled Lessons on Balancing Profitability and Environmental Responsibility from the Amazon Rainforest, Wharton Assistant Professor of Management Leandro Pongeluppe detailed the ways some companies are stepping up to combat the loss of the forest, including conservation and reforestation efforts. One organization doing such work is beauty business Natura, led by CEO João Paulo Ferreira, who spoke on the panel Leading through Change, powered by Wharton’s McNulty Leadership Program. Natura, said Ferreira, has sought to educate individuals about the rainforest’s value, which in turn has helped reduce the deforestation rate.

Advances within Brazil are similarly increasing agribusiness productivity, according to Leticia Kawanami, sustainability director at Cargill Agricultural Supply Chain South America. Not only are new technologies and agricultural methods enabling production that would not have been possible 30 years ago, they are doing so in environmentally conscious ways, she said during the panel Navigating the Future of Agribusiness: Balancing Economic Efficiency and Sustainability.

“It demonstrates that you can grow, you can be more efficient,” Kawanami said, “and you don’t have to push the deforestation frontier.”