You Know It When You See It

B. Lorraine Smith
7 min readDec 27, 2018

What if you were sitting in a large reserve of a unique tropical forest ecosystem, listening to the bird ruckus of endemic species, when you suddenly realized you were in fact sitting among the integrated assets of a profitable company?

What if you discovered that those assets were only valuable because they were a living part of this biodiverse ecosystem, not because they were going to be cut or caught and removed?

What if this was a new company formed by a 100-year old industrial conglomerate that was more known for its steel and cement than its orchids and butterflies?

And what if, in that forested company, you found yourself among scientists from around the nation converging to share data and expertise on everything from eradicating malaria to restoring urban tree populations with native species?

One of many remarkable birds perched near the base at Legado das Águas, where we could listen to them chatter and feed while we chatted and fed, with an expanse of Atlantic Forest in the background.

And as if that weren’t already enough, what if in that same forest where you heard the bird ruckus, you then heard an orchestral performance by a hundred musicians from a nearby city, spanning six decades in age, with diverse socio-economic backgrounds and widely varied musical educations, who brought Beethoven, the Beatles and Brazilian music to a raptured audience of those same scientists, joined by local politicians and corporate partners?

Would you be freaking out? I was. As was my friend Juliana Lopes, intrepid advisor on business and climate change, who joined me on an adventure that was all of those what-ifs, and more.

Juliana taking in the magic of many orchids being cultivated in the Orquidário at Legado das Águas.

Before setting out on our journey to the Legado das Águas, a two-hour journey that began at 5:45am this past Saturday in São Paulo, Brazil, to arrive ahead of the day’s scientific and community presentations in the world’s largest reserve of Mata Atlântica (Atlantic Forest), Juliana and I joked that we didn’t have any expectations for the day. We knew it was an early start for an event in the forest with scientists and an orchestra, so of course we said, “Yes!” We had no idea what we were in for.



B. Lorraine Smith

Former sustainability consultant replacing ESG with reality-based insights about corporate purpose and impact.