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The Wall Street Journal: Brazil’s Recent Past a Challenge to Winning ESG Credibility

Corruption, environmental disasters and deforestation worry some investors

Brazilian companies striving to attract global investors who focus on environmental, social and governance issues face challenges because of the country’s recent history of corruption, inequality and deforestation, money managers say.

Getting across the message that ESG matters are taken seriously can be all the more difficult in a country where the economy is heavily focused on commodity production and extractive industries blamed for global warming.

Meanwhile, deforestation in the Amazon has accelerated under President Jair Bolsonaro, and some foreign investors have threatened to unload Brazilian assets if it isn’t contained.

Some ESG-focused investors view a number of Brazil’s biggest companies as tainted for operating in sectors they consider environmentally unfriendly, such as iron-ore mining company Vale SA and oil major Petróleo Brasileiro SA —by far the two biggest companies in Brazil’s Bovespa stock index—as well as JBS SA, the world’s biggest meatpacker.

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