World Cup signals new opportunities for Brazilian co-operatives

While millions of football fans across the world were waiting for the start of the World Cup in Brazil, the organisers were busy making sure everything was in...

While millions of football fans across the world were waiting for the start of the World Cup in Brazil, the organisers were busy making sure everything was in place for football’s biggest tournament. Throughout the event, which runs from 12 June to 13 July, co-operatives will play an important role in providing services to both athletes and football supporters traveling to Brazil.

UNIMED, for example, is the official provider of emergency medical services at the World Cup. Founded in 1967 by Doctor Edmundo Castillo, it is the largest healthcare network in Brazil – and also the largest system of medical co-operatives in the world. Today the organisation consists of 354 medical co-operatives, which offer health services to around 20 million customers. It has over 109,000 active physicians and 106 hospitals, as well as emergency care, laboratories and ambulances.

Eudes de Freitas Aquino, UNIMED president, is delighted to be involved in the tournament. “We will be responsible for the health of all athletes, teams, officials and technical staff that are coming to Brazil,” he said, ahead of the event.

“We have developed an infrastructure across the country, with various centres and hospitals and we will be responding to all situations and requirements directly and individually.”

Around 12% of Brazil’s population is client of UNIMED, while the medical giant covers over 83% of the national territory and accounts for 32% of the national health insurance market.

Mr Aquino thinks the success of UNIMED is due to its tradition and experience that helped build a powerful brand, and also to the fact that the organisation adheres to co-operative values and principles.

“When they put principles in practice correctly, co-ops can propose long-term sustainability and also propose an alternative and differentiate themselves from private health plans providers. A doctor in a co-op reinvests results in its own system, paying doctors and professionals, buying new technology, and by doing so, maintaining quality very high.

“The co-op model also adapts to circumstances of each époque. It always takes into account the market forces and evolution of medicine and suffers transformations and can always maintain position of main entity of health service provision of the country,” he said.

(c) UNIMED do Brasil
(c) UNIMED do Brasil

UNIMED is one of the 14 officials sponsors of Brazil’s international football team for this year’s World Cup, but it is not the only co-operative involved. A number of recycling co-operatives will be helping to manage the 320 tons of solid waste expected to be generated throughout the World Cup. According to the organisers, over 800 well-trained recycling waste-pickers will be deployed in teams across the 12 sport venues, while the waste they pack up will be sent to recycling co-operatives in Brazil.

The initiative builds on a pilot project that proved to be a great success at the FIFA Confederations CUP Brazil 2013, when 19 waste collector co-operatives working in six different states helped recycle 70 tons of material.

Ricardo Ribas, sanitation and waste management manager of the Local Organising Committee of Brazil 2014, told FIFA (International Federation of Football Association) that the project “is based around two of the key focuses of Brazil 2014: social inclusion and the environment”.

He explained that the project was in line with the government’s national policy on solid waste, by focusing on sorting and the correct handling of waste.

“The participation of the co-operatives means their work will be more valued and respected by the public. They have demonstrated an amazing ability to work together in organised teams,” he said.

Around 40% of the total waste produced during the FIFA Confederations Cup was separated, but Mr Ribas said the organisers were aiming to increase the share to 80% this year.

Federico Addiechi, Head of FIFA Corporate Social Responsibility, added: “The fact that the Brazilian government has recently introduced comprehensive policies for waste has given even more importance to this topic for 2014. We are very happy about the achievements so far, in particular with the opportunity to work closely with local co-operatives in delivering a more sustainable event.”

The World Cup host cities bought cashew nuts from a group of Co-operatives
The World Cup host cities bought cashew nuts from a group of Co-operatives

The World Cup is also a great opportunity for Brazilian co-operatives to showcase their products. Cocajupi (Central Cooperative of Cajucultores Piauí), a group of 450 co-operatives that produces cashew nuts, will be selling its products to host cities for the World Cup.

The organisation, which is a member of UNISOL Brasil, the national apex body for co-operatives, was one of the 113 businesses selected for the Project Talents of Brazil Rural Businesses, enabling it to sell cashew nuts at the World Cup’s headquarters. To cope with the demand of five tons of cashew nuts, Cocajupi has received training by the Brazilian Micro and Small Business Support Service (Sebrae).

“We have made quite a lot of progress in terms of management and production. These factors contributed to the recognition of our organisation”, Jocibel Belchior Bezerra, president of Cocajupi, told UNISOL Brasil.

This year’s slogan for the World Cup is “All in one rhythm”. With this message, World Cup organisers are inviting all Brazilians to join together and celebrate hosting the event. Guided by the slogan, co-operatives involved in the World Cup strive to lead by example.

“I hope that this cycle of efficiency and quality of UNIMED will also be reflected in our team’s game at the World Cup, especially if we were to play a game against Argentina,” said UNIMED’s president, Eudes de Freitas Aquino. UNIMED is one of the 14 officials sponsors of Brazil’s international football team for this year’s World Cup.

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