AYA Earth Partners is Brazil’s Largest Low-Carbon Business Coalition
In March, AYA Earth Partners launched in São Paulo as the first green economy hub in Brazil. With its headquarters in a soon-to-be-certified LEED Platinum V4 built space, designed by Rudy Ricciotti within the Cidade Matarazzo, AYA brings together business leaders across a range of sectors—agriculture, banking, consumer goods, metals, and mining—to help transition Brazil into being a leader in carbon neutrality by 2030 and carbon positivity by 2050.
Behind AYA is former São Paulo State Secretary Patricia Ellen and entrepreneur Alexandre Allard, who see and believe in Brazil’s potential to change the model for the world’s economy and ecological impact. They aim to switch the narrative of the Global North bringing best practices to the Global South, arguing that it’s the South, with its integral ancestral knowledge, that can show the North the best path forward. With a commitment of 30 partners and R$100 billion in revenues, Ellen told Whitewall recently they already have 150 more businesses in their pipeline. They see AYA’s offering of end-to-end solutions, including diagnostics, mentoring, content, advocacy, and backbone services, to support the challenges of a green transition.
Whitewall spoke with Ellen and Allard about their bold vision for the future, and why a transition to sustainable practices isn’t just good for the earth—it’s good business.
“We are here to show every company that the path of regeneration is a path of prosperity,” said Alexandre Allard of AYA Earth Partners.
WHITEWALL: How did the two of you come together to create AYA? What was the initial idea for this coalition?
ALEXANDRE ALLARD: I met Patricia when she was the secretary of economic development for the state of São Paulo. São Paulo is 40 percent of the GDP of Brazil, three times the GDP of Hong Kong. It’s like a country inside of Brazil. It’s the third-largest economy after Mexico in Latin America. It’s a machine that is enormous. I told her, “As soon as you leave the government, we have to work together.”
And that’s what happened. Brazil is a great superpower of the world, and we believe it needs to express itself as such. That’s why I came to Brazil, to help Brazil realize its potential. As a young global leader of the World Economic Forum, Patricia has always been involved in sustainability matters. We decided to join our vision together into the AYA project, which is a kind of permanent Davos, to create a platform that will change the equilibrium between the Southern and the Northern Hemisphere, disrupting the very ancient, quasi-imperialist thinking of the North coming up with the “right” ideas for the South. Why not use the ideas of the South for the North?
There is something to learn from the South. When it comes to ancestral wisdom and a connection to nature, Brazil has 25 percent of the biodiversity of the planet alone. It’s the biggest Indigenous community in the world—about 1.2 million Indigenous people. There is a lot to learn from that, to propagate this consciousness to the world. The idea was to create the largest coalition in the Southern Hemisphere. We just opened and we’re already the largest coalition, so it’s been very fast.
PATRICIA ELLEN: In the last few decades, we’ve been trying to emulate successful economic development models from other countries. What they have in common is that it’s an extractive model. But Brazil, this was never successful, because we never managed to get a sustainable growth pattern, and on top of that we increased deforestation and increased inequalities. So the model is not working for us.
We also understood the whole world needs to change to a new model, and Brazil is the only big nation that actually has a chance still to become net positive by 2030, and at the same time add to the economy. We can do that without major trade-offs overall.
The main goal of AYA is to be the first global coalition based in the Global South, where we combine three of the major transitions that the whole world needs to pursue. One transition is about energy, another is around food and land use, and the other is around the main materials that are used in the world. Then, sector by sector, we are looking at the main issuers of carbon. In the case of Brazil, we’re talking about agriculture, metals and mining, transportation, and energy.
When we talked to all the major sectors that need to pursue these transitions, they asked for help in the basics—how do I apply the science-based targets to understand my carbon footprint? How can I create and engage in a transition? They asked for help in finance and technology, in law and legal services, in certification, and in changing standards. So we created a backbone of services, bringing all the service providers together.
WW: You describe AYA as a catalyst for this revolution. For the sectors involved, has it taken any convincing or are you finding people coming to you that are interested in these backbone services?
PE: Surprisingly, the companies are asking for help. I was just in a meeting now to see our pipeline and we have 159 companies asking for help. We didn’t go to ask them to join us. So we have 30 companies that are already part of the network officially, 159 in the pipeline, and the ones that are here today represent around R$100 billion in assets under management. It’s a significant size in terms of impact.
AA: It’s incredible because it’s just opened. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that Brazil is not only going to catch up, but leapfrog in front of many countries. I see the northern countries as very detached from the essential, which is the connection with nature. And in Brazil, yes, it is a very extractive country that has not treated nature properly in the past five hundred years, but at the same time, there is a natural bond with nature. There is that ancestral knowledge. And so when people catch the matter, and understand the essence of the matter, they actually move much, much faster than in any other country.
AYA is really a coalition for the South, from the South to the North. It is harvesting this extraordinary energy. What AYA brings to the table is that these transitions make economic sense. It makes money. Doing good and taking care of our surroundings as humanity is generating profit for the company. This is our vision. We are not here to teach people what to do, good or bad. We are here to show every company that the path of regeneration is a path of prosperity financially for the companies.
WW: Alex, you described AYA as like a permanent Davos, a place where it’s not just once a year that you gather. Why was it important to have a physical space for the community of AYA, too?
PE: We always believed that the discussion has to become permanent for it become a reality. One thing that Alex brought to the table very wisely was the importance of the physical space for that to happen. We have a space that is now in the final stages to get a LEED certification that’s platinum V4, the most advanced certification. I think we were both aligned on the importance of keeping the discussion real throughout the year and turning it into a reality for the companies, as well.
AA: I think there are lot of things to reinvent. But temples have existed in all the civilizations, from the pyramids to the cathedrals in the Medieval Ages. Places convey an energy and they carry a message. Big companies want to organize their board meeting here because it has meaning. It says something. When you put people together, you make it possible; you make it a reality. It gives the energy to believe that change is possible and that it is not too late.