Social Responsibility Journal
Volume 3 Number 1 March 2007
Public Policies and Social Private Investment in Contemporary Brazil
Maria Alice Nunes Costa
This article has as objective to present the relation between the current phenomenon of the corporate social
responsibility and its relation with the State in the promotion of social policies. We have as example, some cases in
Brazil, where the State starts to encourage companies to make social private investment. This is a new way of public
administration that praises the co-responsibility and corporate solidarity with the social development of the country.
The end of the military dictatorship in Brazil in the years 1980 brought the expectation to increase the role of the State
in the social matters. The democratic yearning led to the assumption that decentralized forms of public rendering of
services, in special in the education and health, would be more democratic and that they would fortify the democracy,
because they could be more efficient and they would raise the levels of welfare of the population.
The development of the managing capacity of the State passes to a new proposal: the public-private partnership.
Its viability requires an association of organizations that make it possible to add different abilities and resources. It
implies in a decentralized structure of the system of management, established in the cooperation and the allotment of
information. In such a way, we will observe the relation of an agency of state economic development - the BNDES -
requiring the partnership of private companies in the promotion of the social development.
The 1990s were marked by the emergence of a discourse about the new role of the State in the supplying of
social services. In this discourse, social responsibility is extended to civil society and to corporation, in a context of
local development. In Brazil, this discourse arose as part of the process of redemocratization, in which guaranteed
citizenship rights for demanding social rights started to be seen as relevant to the development of the country.
In this emerging perspective on social development and new forms of governance, a higher level of
responsibility and commitment was granted to the market and to civil society.
The combination of these three actors - State, corporation and civil society ‚ in such a context ushered a new
concept of local development, capable of addressing the problems of social exclusion.
Currently, beyond its natural activities of attaining of immediate profit, the companies have been impelled to
make more, to demonstrate that they are socially responsible. They, today, exceed the walls of the plants and need to
show that they have commitment with the national development on the basis of international standards of social and
Some Brazilian companies have started to create foundations and Justinian codes in the search for a new nature
that exceeds its search for the profit. They are investments made in social initiatives for beneficiaries external to the
companies who have been realized, in a general form, in three distinct areas: a) the support to the government
programs; b) diffusion of best practices; c) provision of services; among others activities.
It seems to be a different face of the organizational capacity of the companies, that appear as alternative to the
crisis of the system of obligatory universal solidarity, developed and financed for the State. Even though the corporate
social actions are still incipient and carried out through prompt actions, they have revealed themselves determinative in
the process of mobilization of the responsibility of the companies stops with the society, to the side of the
communitarian social actions of non-governmental organizations.
Redefining the social role of the State and corporations in Brazil
The on-going discussion about the new State has been focused on the political, social, organizational and managerial
requirements that can make the State effective and efficient, so that it can take on challenges and dilemmas linked to its
new role. The fiscal crisis of the State and the need to adjust it to the new global economic and financial order forged
the idea that sluggish and centralized State bureaucracies could no longer execute the more complex tasks put forth by
contemporary forces and processes (Grau, 1998). The new world is full of swift changes and inhabited by more
demanding citizens, who insist on more options and superior quality.
Furthermore, economic crises associated with globalization and with the withdrawal of the State from social
policies redesigned the public sphere in respect to the struggle for human and social rights based on new mobilization
efforts of civil society (Castells, 2001). Multi-lateral financial agencies started to condition their loans to the stronger
participation of organized movements of civil society. Thus, public-private partnerships started to be politically
appreciated, particularly in the Brazil of the 1990s, as the new agents in charge of managing collective goods, in the
context of a new economic order and of the inadequate management standards displayed by the Brazilian public sector.
In the wake of the numerous discussions about the redefinition of the roles of the State, during the 1990s, the
This article is part of the Doctorship thesis and is entitled “Mudan‚as Empresariais no Brasil Contemporˆneo: o
investimento social privado † uma nova forma de solidariedade?” (Corporate Changes in Contemporary Brazil: the
private social investment is a new form of solidarity?), defended by the author in March 2006, by the Instituto de
Planejamento Urbano e Regional of Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (IPPUR/UFRJ).