Circular Beach Project is implemented by RioTur to reduce plastic use
Developed within the scope of the Intensive Master’s in Business Management (MEXi) at Fundação Getulio Vargas’ Brazilian School of Public and Business Administration (FGV EBAPE), the Circular Beach Project is making tourism in Rio de Janeiro more sustainable by taking measures to reduce the use of plastic products, especial single-use ones, in commercial operations on the beach and in hotels, restaurants, kiosks and stalls.
This initiative was conceived by Guilherme Borges, a master’s student and the vice president of Orla Rio, a company responsible for managing kiosks on Rio’s beaches. A pilot project, supported by the Circular Plastics in the Americas Program (CPAP) and the city’s tourism agency, RioTur, is now running at Lifeguard Station 4 on Copacabana Beach, and the scheme will soon be rolled out in other locations.
When talking about the project’s development, Borges points out that his career has long been oriented toward entrepreneurship, new businesses and leading teams, but in an intuitive way. “During the master’s degree, we were introduced to various techniques for organizing our thoughts and a wide variety of scientific articles, which were very enriching and changed the way I work. Subjects such as Innovation Management, taught by Professor Paulo Figueiredo, and Research Methodology, taught by Professor Joaquim Rubens, as well as Consulting Projects I and II, taught by professors Augusto Sales and Sami Fouad, were fundamental in this journey,” he says.
The executive points out that when he was structuring the project, he was supported by two other MEXi students, Daniel Rocha and Priscila Neves, who helped him run it. They carried out field research with 50 people before producing the business model, to identify risks and investment requirements.
“We needed good research to predict the most suitable model. The coordinator of MEXi, Professor Augusto Sales, also played a crucial role in building the project. The materials available in the Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Sustainability course gave us a good foundation to format the project, especially the modules on business model design and David Keller’s excellent lecture on how to build creative confidence. We used these references a lot to finalize our work,” Borges says.
In early 2023, FGV EBAPE, through MEXi’s coordination office, welcomed representatives of CPAP, a small delegation from the European Union, Orla Rio executives, sustainability specialists and FGV EBAPE professors to debate solutions to the issue of plastic. The Circular Beach Project, developed in the classroom, was officially presented and the school made clear its support for the initiative. This meeting was essential for the project to obtain funding from the European Union’s Foreign Policy Instrument, allowing it to exchange knowledge with companies and universities in several European countries.
According to Professor Augusto Sales, who worked with the group in the classroom developing the project, the Circular Beach Project is a good example of how the dissemination of an entrepreneurial culture in organizations can help engage professionals and stakeholders while creating value for businesses. “The Circular Beach Project provides an excellent demonstration that innovation and sustainability can go hand in hand, benefiting organizations and society. By using management and entrepreneurship techniques, combined with environmental awareness, MEXi students created a pioneering and promising initiative, capable of inspiring other companies and sectors to adopt more sustainable practices. It is rewarding to see how the academic world can contribute to building a more balanced and prosperous future for all,” he says.
The Circular Beach Project has already scheduled rounds of research to evaluate residents’ engagement with the implemented measures and tourists’ acceptance of them. In the coming weeks, field tests will be carried out to gauge acceptance of new products that can replace plastic, such as canned water and packaging made from starch.
While working on his master’s thesis, Borges says that during a conversation with CPAP representatives, he realized the possibility of changing his already submitted project to a new one that was aligned with measures that were being planned for the Circular Beach Project.
“I received complete support from the school and I believe that this was also a determining factor for the approval of the project. Between April 19 and 23, I coordinated a field survey with 411 domestic and international tourists on the subject of sustainability and tourism. The data from this research will be used in my thesis and by the Circular Beach Project. I’m thrilled to know that my academic work can in some way help such an important initiative for our city,” he explains.
According to him, a connection between academia and industry is essential for academic research to contribute to a more robust and secure entrepreneurial environment in Brazil. “Throughout my professional life, I have seen many companies and businesses opening and closing due to lack of planning and, above all, innovation. I think it is very difficult for this culture to be taken on board by entrepreneurs and executives without the support of academia,” he concludes.
During his visit to Rio de Janeiro to meet with government officials and discuss the circular economy, the European Union’s commissioner for the environment, oceans and fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius, learned about the Circular Beach Project, as well as the installation of a cold water vending machine, public awareness raising campaigns and the process of collecting plastic waste found on Rio’s beaches.