Best International Ambassador Finalist: Alcoa
Alcoa: Advancing Local Sustainable Development
Setting up a large, new project in a community where a company expands affects a region economically, environmentally, and socially. With this notion, Alcoa anticipated possible situations that could emerge in the construction and operation of its new mine, leading to a partnership with a community that reflects true sustainable development. The expansion led to a win-win for all involved – a boost to local economic standing, a fulfilled business opportunity, and increasedmutual trust that is essential for successful business-community relationships.
The Juruti region, in the heart of the Amazon rainforest, is home to 47,000 people, with 65% living in about 150 rural communities. The economy is based on fishing, cattle-raising, Brazil nut extraction, and subsistence agriculture. The average per capita income is US$23 per month, and the population has a literacy rate of 21%.
In recognition of underlying social-economic issues, and consistent with Alcoa’s objectives to assist in building sustainable communities, Alcoa Brazil, FUNBIO (Brazilian Biodiversity Fund) and Instituto Alcoa created the Sustainable Juruti Council (CONJUS) and launched the Sustainable Juruti Fund (FUNJUS) to provide funding for projects that promote sustainable development and create alternative economic opportunities for the community.
A public opinion poll revealed that 91% of the population in the municipality viewed the installation of Alcoa’s new bauxite mine in a positive way.
Sustainable Juruti, designed for mining and local development, includes the strategy for setting a long-term agenda based on three fundamentals: respect for the environment, social responsibility, and economic success. For the communities of Juruti, giving Alcoa permission to operate in their land meant holding Alcoa to its promise of restoring the environment. Nowhere was this more important than in the small waterways, known as Igarapés that supply the Juruti villages with bathing and drinking water.
During construction of the bauxite mine, only seven of approximately 600 steams were impacted and silted-up. However, obtaining the daily license to operate meant that this 1% unfavorable rate was unacceptable. Thus, when efforts to de-silt these waterways after construction produced unsatisfactory results, Alcoa decided to take extraordinary restoration efforts and recruited community members to help in the restoration project. Community members committed to the project and shared their own knowledge of how the waterways had run for generations. The project transferred skills and knowledge for maintaining the waterways to the communities as well. Alcoa's commitment to keep promises and engage communities of the Juruti area in caring for its future have made certain that the water will flow free and clear for future generations.
What Alcoa Has Accomplished
In addition to the restoration of the waterways, Alcoa’s presence and engagement with the development council brought about several initiatives to support community and economic growth by providing jobs and infrastructure improvements:
- Constructed the Juruti Community Hospital and refurbished or expanded various health facilities. Prior to this, many people had to travel by boat for up to 12 hours to get medical attention
- Built 16 classrooms in eight schools
- Established a police station
- Constructed a legal complex, including the municipality’s first courthouse
- Created three deep water wells to provide fresh, clean water
A public opinion poll revealed that 91% of the population in the Juruti community viewed the installation of Alcoa’s new bauxite mine in a positive way. This type of approval can only be achieved through sustained, collaborative work with the community.
Alcoa’s bauxite mining project has been recognized as a sustainability benchmark by generating positive social and economic effects in the local community and enhancing environmental conditions. By working with the community, Alcoa was named the Most Sustainable Company in Brazil by Exame magazine. Not only has Alcoa’s work impacted communities in Brazil, the initiative has become a framework that can be adopted in other ecologically sensitive regions.
Why This Project Makes Sense
Alcoa’s work with the Juruti community is a great example of how global companies and communities can work together to boost local capacity, build mutual trust and promote long-term economic growth.