6 Oct 2016
Euro-environmental Solutions Top the Bill at Pollutec Brazil Event
While many European companies made the 5,000 mile trip to Brazil to promote their environmental systems, Asian businesses were largely notable by their absence – a surprising occurrence given the size of the country's green budget.
It seems that countries around the world are queuing up to offer Brazil help with cleaning up its environment. France, Belgium, Holland, Austria and Britain all had a notable presence at this year's small – but tightly-focussed – Pollutec 2016 trade fair in Sao Paulo. And rightly so it seems. According to many of the exhibitors, there are great business opportunities on offer for those who have the right technology or expertise.
The French Pavilion alone played host to 14 different businesses, including specialist suppliers of surface aerators, chemical water treatment systems, water reservoirs, biotech water treatment (such as filter gardens), plastics recycling, waste collection, atmospheric emissions analysis and more general environmental research facilities.
Amongst those looking to help French companies do business in Brazil was Arthur Orlando, an Advisor with Business France, the French government's trade development agency. Explaining his presence at the event, Orlando said: "Our main job is to establish partnerships with Brazilian companies and they're now much more open to this. When it comes to dealing with pollution, they're looking for new technology. It's too expensive and would take too long for them to develop such systems themselves".
One reason for the strong French presence is that this particular travelling trade fair has a high profile back in France, with many companies keen to sign up for its first expedition into Brazil. In truth, France has considerable renown in the field of environmental technology, with companies like Suez (a water and waste management business) and Veolia (a waste management specialist) acknowledged as leaders in their field.
France also benefits through having a foothold in Latin America through Guiana, a French overseas territory bordering Brazil. Based in Cayenne, the territory's capital, Guyanet has 35 years of experience in the waste collection industry. Similarly, NBC – another Cayenne-based business – has been conducting air and water studies in Guiana, Haiti and a number of other French-speaking Caribbean countries over the past 23 years.
Another European company keen to make its mark was Ecosystems Europe, with the Netherlands-based specialist in industrial gas cleaning looking to promote its Sao Paulo-based subsidiary. This year, the company was sharing a stand with IA Susteneval, a Brazilian company specialising in environmental monitoring, licensing and site clean-up. The business was originally set up as a joint venture with BioSoil, the Dutch multinational.
Commenting on the opportunities available, Paula Almeida, IA Susteneval's Sales Manager, said: "There's a lot of industry in Brazil and so there's a lot of demand for industrial clean-ups, whether that's with regard to emissions, waste, or contaminated land. There are not too many companies with expertise in this area, though, so there is great potential for us. We've had a lot of meetings with companies that need this type of work but, of course, it's very much a long-term business."
For its part, Belgium's national stand featured an impressive array of technologies and systems from its own national businesses. Highlights here included industrial waste water treatment facilities, biogas system, organic residues treatment, water aeration, surface and groundwater tracing services and hydrogeological modelling.
Not to be outdone, many of Brazil's domestic players were also on show, with BNDES, being perhaps the most significant. Its full title – the National Bank for Economic and Social Development – makes its role a little clearer. The bank is actually Brazil's main development financing agent.
Expanding on the institution's actual role, Fernao de Souza Vale, a Representative of the President's Office, said: "Our priority is the provision of long-term loans in certain areas. We also offer non-reimbursable funds and grants for projects.
"We have special lines of finance for sustainable development in particular situations, such as our Climate Change Fund and our Amazon Fund. These, though, are aimed at larger enterprises than those we're expecting to see this week."
The Amazon Fund was established to support projects that prevent or combat deforestation in the region, with some US$223 million of funding agreed in 2015. The fund is supported by international donations, with Norway being the biggest donor by some distance, with the country having provided more than US$1 billion over the past six years.
By contrast, the Climate Change Fund provides repayable loans for companies looking to use renewable energy, move towards more energy efficient equipment, convert waste into energy or combat desertification.
Overall, BNDES provides more such financing than the World Bank, with a total spend of more than US$50 billion annually. BNDES loans are also, typically, offered at significantly better terms those of other banks.
Highlighting its own priorities at the event, Fernao de Souza Vale, a Senior Administrator with the Bank, said: "Our focus this week is on small and medium-sized businesses. We are looking to talk to companies seeking funding. We might also meet with representatives of regions or cities, such as local Mayors."
Of course, while these loans and grants are intended for Brazilian private companies or public entities, they can also be used for the purchase and import of the equipment and expertise needed to support those companies. Acknowledging this, Orlando said: "BNDES is very important for this sector. The BNDES Proplastic Program, for example, supports environmental clean-up for plastics manufacturers."
The other major Brazilian presence at the fair came courtesy of the Solvi Group. Introducing the business, Marcus Viniciu, the group's Marketing Manager, said: "We're the biggest Brazilian company in this field. Our group includes Koleta, which is responsible for waste collection in Sao Paulo, Rio and Salvador.
"Then there is Essencis, which manages the treatment and recycling of waste in four States, and GRI, a provider of waste and environmental management solutions tailored to individual business requirements. Finally, there is Organo, which sells organic compost fertilizers produced from the collected waste.
"We work for state and city governments in Brazil and Bolivia. At present, we are planning to expand into Central America."
One of the few Chinese companies in attendance was Beijing Hengju, a mainland water treatment company. Explaining the strategic nature of its participation, Eugene Xu, President of the company's Canadian subsidiary, said: "We're a big company, with more than 100,000 employees. Every year, we attend several shows around the world. There are good prospects in Brazil and this is our first time here. We would have liked to have seen more Brazilian service companies here for us to talk to, however. There are lots of industries in Brazil that could use our services.
"Brazil's economy is a little bit behind China, the USA, Russia and India, but pollution is a problem for every country now and we sell wherever we can."
The Shandong Sanfeng Group was one of the few other mainland businesses attending the event. The company specialises in the provision of water treatment chemicals, such as ferric and ferrous sulphate, and sodium hypochlorite. Also in attendance was Zhejinag-based Yanpai. Back in 2000, the company established a subsidiary in Sao Paulo and was attending the event to promote its range of filtration fabrics, said to be particularly suitable for use in waste water treatment plants.
Overall, though, this year's Pollutec provided an impressive showcase for a wide array of pollution technology, with good representation from Europe, and – unusually for a Brazilian trade fair – only a token presence from Asia. Judging by the optimism of the exhibitors and the amount of funding on offer, this may well have been something of a missed opportunity.
Pollutec Brasil 2016, the international Fair of Environmental Technologies and Solutions, was held at Expo Anhembi, Sao Paulo, Brazil, from 12-15 April.
John Haigh, Special Correspondent, Sao Paulo