Championing the role of women in the green economy

For the past decade, BVRio has worked to develop and promote market mechanisms in support of the green economy, with social inclusion a core BVRio value. We believe everyone should benefit from the green economy and we seek to support the most vulnerable people working in the sectors we focus on.

Supporting women in the informal waste sector

Waste is a by-product of daily human activities. It is estimated that under the current scenario of production of consumer goods, the generation of municipal solid waste will increase worldwide from 2 billion tonnes/year in 2016 to 3.4 billion tonnes in 2050, with most of this increase observed in low-income countries, where waste is expected to triple (Source).

Since the beginning of its foundation, BVRio has worked to strengthen the informal waste sector. Its founders participated in several sectoral discussions and contributed to creating the Brazilian National Policy for Solid Waste (PRNS) in 2010. Two years later, in 2012, BVRio’ developed the Reverse Logistics Credits system, a social and environmental circular economy model. One of BVRio’s objectives in creating this system was to improve the working conditions of informal waste pickers in collaboration with the National Association of Waste Pickers.

More than 800,000 waste pickers are working in the streets, dumpsites and landfills of Brazil. A third of this workforce is female, about 84,000 women (Source – Waste Pickers in Brazil: A Statistical Profile | WIEGO). Informal waste pickers earn a wage by selling recyclable materials, but there is no compensation for the important environmental service they provide by collecting and sorting waste. As crucial actors in waste management, waste pickers must be part of recycling solutions, according to the Brazilian Solid Waste Policy (PNRS). The credit system created by BVRio offered an essential additional source of income to waste pickers and, most importantly, added value to their work, achieving a positive social impact.

In 2020, BVRio launched the Circular Action Hub, which connects informal waste initiatives worldwide with companies seeking to commission waste recovery and recycling services. Through the Hub, BVRio has championed the role of women and of recycling initiatives in Brazil, of which many are female-led or rely predominantly on female workers.

We spoke to some of the women leading such projects about their challenges, ambition and hopes for the future.

“Co-operative is a space to promote sorority.”

Iara Meiri de Melo Moura Silva, 40, is the leader of Beija Flor Cooperative in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Mother of two, she began working in the recycling market over 20 years ago with her mother, who came to Rio de Janeiro from the Northeast of Brazil at 17 years old. Behind the love for her work, there is a story of great strength and inspiration from this family that works unitedly, passing the craft of collecting and sorting to the new generations. Read Iara’s story.


“Recycling was a job opportunity in the neighbourhood of Jardim Gramacho, where almost 40,000 people depended on rubbish for a living. Whole generations lived off the dump for more than 30 years. More than 10,000 tons arrived daily, the largest dumpsite in Latin America.” Cooper Ecológica’s co-founder Clarisse Aramian. Read Clarisse’s story.



Born into a traditional waste pickers family in Rio de Janeiro, Glória de Souza dos Santos, 45, has worked for over three decades in the recycling market. She grew up in the vicinities of Jardim Gramacho, Rio de Janeiro’s most prominent landfill. There, she learned with her mother and brothers the complex task of sorting dozens of dumped materials. Gloria is an inspiring woman and a great leader in the community where she lives, the founder of the cooperative ACERJ. Read Glória’s story.

Championing the role of women in forest conservation and sustainable land use

Promoting women’s involvement in forestry is crucial to sustainable land use and forest management. Across the planet, about one billion women rely on forests for their livelihoods, helping to build specialised knowledge to manage forests sustainably (FAO, 2022).

BVRio’s initiatives related to reducing deforestation and forest degradation, from legal timber trading to adding value to residual certified wood, champion the role women play to emphasise forests’ health and environmental importance. For instance, taking five renowned female wood designers into the heart of the Amazon to provide training to wood manufacturing cooperatives empowered women in forest communities to include their voices and talents within small-scale forestry enterprises.

“This new experience has changed everything in my life because before, I didn’t have a household income as I do now. So, practically everything has changed, including my routine. For me it is very rewarding, I come to work with joy, with enthusiasm, this is what I like to do”. Valdirene Cardoso dos Santos, furniture maker assistant at Wooden Manufacturer ‘Anambé’, in Belterra, State of Pará, who participated in one of BVRio’s Design & Sustainable Wood Initiative training projects delivered by Designer Alessandra Delgado. Watch the full story on our Youtube channel

“Yesterday, I arrived in this place, and I was immediately moved. It’s hard to describe the emotion we get from being here. It’s a place that has extraordinary energy, so I’m very glad to be part of this initiative and to be here with the local community. We can see the commitment they have with this natural abundance, with wanting to make a difference within this context and all this wealth.” Alessandra Delgado, designer involved in the Design & Sustainable Wood initiative.

“Action is necessary now so that a more feminine world becomes a reality, with our right to have a voice, to express our concerns and to be silent. A more sustainable world requires more freedom of decision for women.” Roberta del Giudice – executive secretary of the Forest Code Observatory – OCF (BVRio partner)

Female artisans driving the bioeconomy

BVRio’s long history of supporting forest conservation and responsible timber trading led to a focus on supporting forest artisans, and some recent initiatives have supported growing bioeconomy businesses operating within the Brazilian Amazon.

Created in 2019, the initiative AmazoniAtiva was designed as part of the climate governance strategy for the State of Rondônia, part of the Brazilian Amazon, and grew to become a digital hub for solutions for marketing and managing the bioeconomy. This platform brought together around 70 partners and benefited over six thousand people in the nine states that make up Amazon, helping strengthen the businesses of traditional communities that make a living from this activity.

We spoke to some of the female-led businesses showcased on AmazoniAtiva:

“Entrepreneurship awakens the true potential latent in each one of us. To believe is always the first step towards the materialisation of our objectives. Us women are capable of making a difference. May we be agents of transformation. We women from Saboaria Rondônia, work on the front lines, in a rural community where we mobilise other women to validate the ability that each one brings and, in a synchronous way, leave a record of what we have done to improve our world. Women, you are all capable. Believe, seek to materialise your dreams. We can always be like the hummingbird at the forest fire: no matter how small the water drop we throw, we will certainly be making a difference.” says Mareilde Freire de Almeida, founder and partner of Saboaria Rondônia.

“I think that the biggest challenge is to avoid polarising and dividing society between men and women. I want everyone to value family and education. In my view, the important thing is to strengthen the human being.” Zezé Freitas, entrepreneur and pharmacist at Ekilibre Amazônia.