monitorACT - June 2021





Everybody remembers children’s stories where the characters are very wise animals who provide us, at the end of their quest, with lessons which we take with us into adulthood. The text that opens this bulletin, for example, bears the question: Why should the fox not be left guarding the henhouse? The authors used the tale by La Fontaine to explain the evident conflict of interests existing when appointing representatives from the ultra-processed food industry to integrate entities responsible for public policies. It is, after all, corporations who act in a way to undermine food policies, carry out indiscriminate and less and less regulated use of pesticides, fertilizers and GMOs. Their businesses often end up promoting land ownership concentration and deforestation and there are reports of labor analogous to slavery taking place among their outsourced workers.

In the bulletin about The hidden goings-on behind students’ rights to food, we talk about how pig and dairy cattle farmers are influencing parliamentary members in order to include their output in the national school meal program. The provision of millions of daily meals for students, together with the expansion of the  program, enables enormous potential to encourage the procurement of nationally-produced foods, which in turn makes it a target for the production sector. So members of parliament linked to this sector introduce bills with enough procedures to alter the legal framework of the program and place it under threat. May he or she who has never seen this battle between David and Goliath before cast the first stone.

The feminist movement captured by companies resumes an issue we have aready approached in other editions, concerning social and environmental causes serving as an instrument to improve the strongly tainted image of certain companies. In the case of feminism, manufacturers of products that are harmful to health invest in increasing their sales among women, but keep to old diehard sexist habits in their everyday work schedules with female colleagues and employees. Its the old story about the wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Finally, The Next Stop is: [Name of your company] abandons the tales and fables and tells a true story: the matter concerning naming rights and the case of the subway station that underwent an identity change, in Rio de Janeiro. Following a negotiation about which there are no details, MetrôRio, who holds the concession to operate the subway system in Rio de Janeiro and Coca-Cola struck a deal and the beverage company got to name the station where its Brazilian head office is located, in the traditional district of Botafogo. Founded in the 16th century, the history of the district was told in a delectable tweet by writer Luiz Antonio Simas: “In 1519, the Portuguese built a war vessel named Galeão São João Batista. With an 800-piece strong artillery, the galleon appeared to spit fire through its nostrils and became known by its nickname O Botafogo [“The Firespreader”]. The war vessel was so successful that a Portuguese nobleman decided to give the surname to his son”. João de Souza Pereira Botafogo, born in 1540 in a town in Portugal, came one day to the colony as Senior Lieutenant to the Governor-general of the day, appointed in 1573 to defend the recently founded city of São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro. “For successfuly performing his function, João Botafogo received from the king a piece of land on Enseada de Francisco Velho [Francisco Velho Bay], which went on to be known as Botafogo Beach”.  Now, the traditional neighborhood has a station displaying the name of a beverage which causes overweight and obesity, contributing to various other diseases.

In conclusion, we would like to introduce our new name, which translates in the simplest  form our mission through this newsletter:  to be the ACT channel for monitoring practises by the industries which are harmful to health, to the environment and to the planet as a whole. 

Enjoy your Reading of MonitorACT. 


Anna Monteiro

Communications Director



Why shouldn’t the fox be guarding the henhouse?

Bruna Kulik Hassan, Camila Maranha and Paula Johns



A raposa cuidando do galinheiro!" | Espaço Vital

The popular saying that warns about the danger of leaving the fox guarding the henhouse is very well known and conveys an important message which refers to the problem of conflicts of interest. With the fox being a natural predator of chickens, as best as its intentions may be, sooner or later it will take advantage of its position as a caretaker to achieve its most primitive objective. In this situation the conflict is easily identified: when the fox is made caretaker. But... what about when the fox wants to take part in advisory commitees deciding on how to take care of hens? What if the fox only wants to form a partnership with the hen caretaker for educational activities? Why not consider these as good initiatives, taking into account the sum of resources available to the fox? I mean, come on!

Unfortunately, this metaphor can be used for initiatives which have been adopted by the food and beverage industries to approach actors and food and nutrition policies, as in the case of the recent candidacy and appointment carried out by São Paulo Governor João Doria, published in the Official State Gazette on May 8, 2021, to the positions of president and vice-president of the Food and Nutrition Security State Council of São Paulo (Conselho Estadual de Segurança Alimentar e Nutricional de São Paulo - Consea-SP), to the Brazilian Food Industry Association (Associação Brasileira da Indústria de Alimentos - Abia) and to the Brazilian Rural Society (Sociedade Rural Brasileira - SRB), in addition to the partnership between Coca-Cola and the Ministry of Health in the Covid-19 vaccination campaign.

What is, after all, the problem if Abia presides over Consea-SP? It could be an overreaction by civil society, but let us imagine a venue which was built in order to enable society to take part in the development and surveillance of public policies related to food and nutrition security, giving a voice to those who do not have many places to express their yearnings and realities, and are, however, the first to be affected when a public policy fails. We could go on with the henhouse analogy of the chickens and the fox or we could rename, as Consea-SP, vulnerable sectors of the population and representatives from social movements and those who have a huge hungry share of power occupying this space dedicated to dialog. To include Abia in Consea-SP is to have powerful players from the private sector whose main commitments are focused on financial and comercial interests, not on the common good. To place representatives of major economic powers to lead the entity compromises the committee’s ability to balance forces to express themselves on themes in the interests of society. Let us imagine, for example, what would happen in this scenario if the human ration proposal were not to return to the agenda composed thus.

The situation is so troublesome that a letter of rejection was issued by none less than the State Conseas President Committee (Comissão de Presidentes dos Conseas Estaduais - CPCE), where they declare that they do not acknowledge the current board of Consea-SP. Other organizations and associations, such as the Alliance for Adequate and Healthy Nutrition (Aliança Pela Alimentação Adequada e Saudável) and the Popular Conference for Food and Nutrition Rights, Sovereignty and Security (Conferência Popular por Direitos, Soberania e Segurança Alimentar e Nutricional) also expressed their disapproval of the partnership between the São Paulo State Government and the major corporations. Additionally, on May 5 2021, many collective associations joined the concerted tweets for the #AbiaNoConseaNão (“#AbiaOutofConcea”) campaign, as informed in a report by O Joio e O Trigo. Unfortunately the plea made by civil society was ignored. 

An important point to note is that the actions by the companies represented by these entities move in the opposite direction of the centrality of Consea activities, which aim to ensure the human right to adequate nutrition in Brazil. That is because these corporations are major producers and encourage the consumption of ultra-processed products, the evidence of which point to a growing number of associated harmful effects, which in turn collaborate towards food insecurity and which the Dietary Guidelines for the Brazilian Population  recommends avoiding. The approach made by Abia for the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply to suggest a review of the Guidelines to the Ministry of Health, with no scientific grounds, as disclosed by the report in The Intercept, exemplifies the potentially devastating  impact of such entities for Consea.  

These corporations also undermine the potential to build healthy and sustainable food systems, due to the indiscriminate and less and less regulated use of pesticides, fertilizers and genetically modified foods, in addition to promoting conflicts, land ownership concentration and  deforestation, which contribute towards increasing vulnerability for populations in situations of food insecurity in urban centers, rural areas and forests. The letter issued by the Alliance emphasizes that such entities “(…) have shown no commitment towards public policies focused on health. They can therefore not be considered institutions which contribute publically towards food and nutrition security.” This process, therefore, deepens an imbalance of power which only benefits private interests.

Lack of transparency can be added to process, as stated in the memorandum of repudiation by the Popular Conference for Food and Nutrition Rights, Sovereignty and Security:  


“Unfortunately, public officials, in conjunction with the business sector, have acted in favor of inclusion on the triple list for corporate Presidency and Vice-presidency. The methodology involved in this process has been inadequate and not at all transparent, which resulted in more votes for those representing the Brazilian Food Industry Association (ABIA) and the Brazilian Rural Society (SRB), in detriment of  civil society representatives for public interests such as family farming, academia, among others, as well as representatives for those directly affected by food insecurity such as workers, traditional peoples and communities, black populations and women. These representations are the ones which have historically represented civil society in the Conseas”.


With regard to the other example mentioned in reference to the problem about the fox being a partner of the henhouse owner, it is worth reflecting on the problem with Coca-Cola offering their infrastructure to support the Ministry of Health in the vaccination campaign to provide immunization against Covid-19. In this case, we’re talking about a company whose flagship sales product is a sweetened beverage whose consumption is associated to a higher risk of excess weight and obesity in childhood and during adulthood, among other diseases, as well as greater risk of dying. Coca-Cola will take advantage of this partnership to convey a positive message to its consumers, stimulating consumption of its products even further. 

Some may ask: But such a large and powerful company like them…do they really need this? In this case it is worth mentioning here some recent and important data. Although the brand’s global value increased by around US$ 3 billion between 2019 and 2020, it has been showing signs of stability since 2015 (US$ 78.14 billion to US$ 84.02 billion). And that is nothing compared to the value of the brand, which skyrocketed in previous years (US$ 41.41 billion in 2006 to US$ 83.84 billion in 2014). The company is tuned in to the fact that the search by consumers for healthier alternatives has been growing, especially among younger crowds, and in Brazil in the last ten years alone it has been possible to verify a significant drop in consumption for its main flagship product, as well as for the artificial fruit juices produced by the brand. Additionally, there is already evidence being raised revealing that when consumers assess food products marketed by companies with a high reputation for corporate social responsibility, they go so far as to underestimate their calorie content and   give preference to these options. It becomes, therefore, clearer to see why the brand needs to join forces with public health institutions that can improve their image. 

This partnership reminds us of one that took place before, in 2011, involving the McDonalds chain and the Ministry of Health, where messages of health promotion were printed on the paper tray towels used at chain restaurants. The event led to widespread civil society mobilization, spearheaded by the Food Advertising Regulation Front (Frente pela Regulação da Publicidade de Alimentos), who gathered signatures and also involved a letter from three major Brazilian researchers to the Ministry of Health at the time. Although the disbanding of the partnership was not officially publicized, in view of the negative repercussion of the initiative, the Ministry of Health logo disappeared from the trays in the month following the announcement of the partnership.

In both cases the direct partnerships with the Ministry of Health for information campaigns were related to public health pandemics – the former for obesity and the most recent for Covid-19. While the fast food chain conflict was clear, in the case of the beverage company the relation to its health problem is less explicit. These products are involved with the origin of obesity and chronic non-communicable diseases, which in turn increase the morbimortality risk by Covid-19. Unfortunately, we have identified initiatives all over the world by companies who are publicly presented as contributions to national or international efforts to fight the  pandemic and support communities, but are projected to promote brands, products and companies whose financial interests often conflict with public health objectives.

In other words, transnational corporations, especially those whose product is harmful and deadly in nature, need to sell their products and expand markets in order to guarantee their financial sustainability and generate profits for their shareholders. Public health needs fewer people to consume these products so that we can live longer, healthier lives. And there we have the diametrically opposed conflict of interests between public health and more ultra-processed foods and beverages. The absence of boundaries imposed on these corporations generates increased profits at the expense of our health, which in turn foments the vicious cycle of more economic power which translates into political power that determines the laws, or lack thereof, to impose the necessary limits on corporations which cause a series of negative externalities, in order to achieve a more solidary, healthy and sustainable society. 

The freedom to develop laws should belong to the people, through their elected representatives. A lot has been said and documented about the need for systemic and structural changes in today’s world. After all, in this world of production and consumption, we are consuming the equivalent to 1.6 planets Earth. Thus, to debate governance and “denormalize” the ultra-processed food industries, as per the example of what was done with the tobacco industry, is an essential step in order not to allow for the fox to be guarding the henhouse. 



The hidden goings-on behind students’ rights to food

Kelly Alves and Priscila Diniz


Resulting from a lot of demands made and social participation in the first decade of the 21st century, the National School Nutrition Program - PNAE, created in the 1950s, has been the frequent target of food companies, eager to sell their products. The program underwent a thorough review in the light of the National Food and Nutrition Security Policy (Política Nacional de Segurança Alimentar e Nutricional - PNSAN). Under this renewal it was understood that this was a guarantee for students’ rights to adequate nutrition. This process culminated in the enactment of Law 11.947 in 2009, which instituted the universal nature of the program, providing coverage for the full primary education level, including high school and youth and adult education, and the guarantee of a minimum nutritional provision of daily needs for students according to age group and school attendance. It also defined nutrition guidelines for food acquisition, establishing additional food product restriction and prohibition categories; the  inclusion of food and nutrition education (educação alimentar e nutricional - EAN) in school syllabuses; and the mandatory requirement that 30% of resources transferred by the Education Ministry’s National Fund for Education Development (Fundo Nacional de Desenvolvimento da Educação/Ministério da Educação - FNDE/MEC) to the project-executing agencies be spent on procuring food produced directly by family farmers, favoring indigenous groups, quilombolas, traditional communities and land reform settlers.

More recently, Resolution Nº 6/2020 by FNDE/MEC took a new step towards the classification of PNAE nutritional guidelines by adopting the recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines for the Brazilian Population, with an emphasis on ultra-processed food restrictions on the menus, in order to ensure ongoing and increasing cooperation by school nutrition programs towards improving food and nutrition conditions for students. 

This set of changes still in course at PNAE has the potential to assure the right to food, health and education for students as well as for the promotion of local economic and social development, through the creation of an institutional market for food produced by family farmers. This measure is able to afford visibility to the family farming sector, highlighting its potential to contribute to advancements in food security policies, as well as promoting gradual inclusion and generation of income for rural families, especially those in traditional communities, who are very much excluded from production and commercialization processes due to the absence of fair access to minimum production and flow logistics structures.

PNAE serves around 41 million students at all levels of primary education provided by the 5,570 municipalities, 26 states and the Federal District. The budget destined for the FNDE/MEC program runs at around R$ 4 billion per year. This is in addition to the resources of the project-executing agencies themselves, corresponding to the investment by municipalities, state governments and the Federal District for the implementation of the PNAE program.  

The provision of millions of daily meals, added to its territorial coverage enables the program with great potential to foment food purchases at a national level, which in turn positions it as a target for the food production sector. Thus, the program has been targeted by representative groups from this sector, in order to alter their legal milestone and make it compulsory to purchase the food they produce. 

Some examples of legislative proposals recently discussed at a public hearing in the  House of Representatives Education Committee in April: Draft Bill (PL) 3.292/2020, which determines that 40% of resources provided by the FNDE assigned for the purchase of milk must be used to purchase milk, and obtained a favorable vote with regard to the urgency requirement, following on to the Senate; and PL 4.195/2012, which determines the obligation to include pork at least once a week on school menus. 

In both cases we can observe a similar scenario. On one hand, production sectors that are facing severe trading difficulties, partly due to the high cost of animal feed inputs for dairy cattle and pigs, fed on soybean and corn meal, whose exchange rates, as commodities, are tied to increases in the U.S. Dollar, which causes swift increases in production costs and therefore reduces profits for their producers. On the other hand, there are Federal Representatives driven by entities or producers’ syndicates from their states or regions to create Parliamentary Fronts representing them, and decide to give in to pressure by proposing draft bills.








Pork meat and milk are already part of the in natura and minimally processed food groups that are recommended by the Food Guide, but their addition to the menu must follow program guidelines in order to meet students’ nutrition needs, if they agree with their food culture, if there is physical and financial availability and if they contribute to sustainable local development. Planning of these actions is up to the professional dietician technically responsible for the program at the project-executing agencies, who should devise the menus and actively accompany all procedures necessary for execution in school units. 

Healthy and adequate nutrition goes beyond guaranteeing the provision of nutrients. The meals served in schools must respect local food culture, which includes not only food types, but also the way it is prepared and consumed. To put this into practice, it becomes more strategic to encourage and ensure the purchase of foods produced locally, as close as possible to the school area. 

The approval of a bill with this type of proposal undoubtedly sets precedents for the approval of others of the same nature. There are currently 17 other projects attached to PL 4.195/2012 which intend to alter the PNAE according to various interests.

Civil society is following these matters through the School Meal Observatory (Observatório da Alimentação Escolar - ÓAÊ), which invites us not to cry over spilt milk. In a social media campaign we very quickly achieved over 28 thousand opposing signatures, which demonstrates that society understands the importance of this long standing public policy which is also so important to the history of our fight against hunger. At the same time that we invite readers to learn more about the PNAE in their municipality and who benefits from it, we call them to join us in the fight for good quality school meals, free from conflicts of interests. 



The development of a national food strategy for students in public schools in Brazil started in the latter half of the 1950s. At that time, the so-called National Campaign for School Meals (“Campanha Nacional de Merenda Escolar”) gave rise to a history of events marked on one hand by the objective of guaranteeing adequate meals for students, contributing to their learning process and continuous presence in schools, and on the other hand by its ability to contribute towards development strategies for the national food production sector, in other words, fertile ground for conflicts of interests. 


The food initially served to students was donated by the U.S. Government or agencies within the United Nations Organization. This food support program was part of the economic and ideological U.S. project to expand the international market for its products and its domination over developing countries, especially in Latin America, within the context of the Cold War. The food donated to Brazil included skimmed powdered milk, wheat flour and soy, following on to the country’s Northeastern region, which concentrated most of the country’s malnourished children. 


From the 1960s onwards, with decreasing international donations, the Brazilian Federal Government started to procure national products for school meals. But centralized purchases favored only a few major industrialized food companies that were starting to establish themselves in Brazil. It can be said that the interests of these companies were decisive in influencing the program’s initial design, and for that reason they drew great benefit from the nationwide purchase and distribution of their food products based on the standardization of school menus. Dried soups and formulated porridge products had a strong presence in schools. There was no concern for food culture or food acceptability. 


It was only in the late 1980s that resource decentralization started to take place, as well as the municipalization of the National School Nutrition Program (Programa Nacional de Alimentação Escolar) – PNAE, the name given to the program from 1979, and materialized in the late 1990s.  As a consequence, municipalities began to manage their school food programs, which now enabled the development of menus that were compatible with local community eating habits as well as diversification in their preparation, values which were strongly related to the autonomy of administrative entities with the objective of implementing school food programs which better matched specific regional characteristics.





 The feminist movement captured by companies  

Victória Rabetim and Mariana Pinho


The fight for civil rights, with women’s rights among them, is an important landmark, especially in male-dominated societies as is the case in Brazil. Although the planet celebrates International Women’s Day on March 8th, advances are necessary in order to obtain further achievements. Women continue to perform multiple shifts to meet professional and domestic demands, and are less represented in National Congress and in Executive Branch positions in all states across the country.

Year after year, this agenda has been gaining ground among women themselves, but also between society and the corporate world. To listen to and identify womens’ demands, to acknowledge decisions made by them for them are some of the stages of corporate projects to bear this flag. When successfully implemented, everyone is a winner: satisfied female employees and thriving business. Thus, promoting the rights of your female collaborators is considered sound business practice.

The advance of female empowerment in the corporate environment has been recommended by UN Women since 2010 and has taken to the streets. The movement preaches that women should take power from themselves, be fully aware of their strengths and abilities and workplaces must promote this process of women’s empowerment.



Posts by Philip Morris highlighting the female figure in the company.


Posts by BAT Brasil highlighting female figures in the company, associated to the words courage and  empowerment 



Besides, companies have been doing their homework, many times through social responsibility programs which are, as we have already shown in other editions,  pure marketing. They do this to align their discourse to recommendations made by international organizations. They alter discourses in order to fit in with current language and formats. They adjust corporate programs in order to develop their business and increase their market. Let’s not fool ourselves, we live in a sexist, capitalist world.


Women sell products and promote companies, frequently at a high cost, and unintentionally their lives. STOP Initiative, a tobacco industry practices observatory, developed a specific piece entitled Women and the Tobacco Industry, showing how companies in the sector use images of women. And the verb “to use” could not be more accurate here. We have always and continue to be the target and object of advertising campaigns and fall ill more frequently due to passive exposure to ambient cigarette smoke at home. 


Misses em Manchete: Miss e Propaganda Virginia Slims Cashes in on Women's Lib, Declaring: 'You've Come a Long  Way, Baby' - 4A's O Importante é Ter Charme! – Memória da Propaganda


The STOP document goes on to comment that smoking increases the likelihood of impoverishment, which foments domestic violence, especially against women. That was precisely the theme of the joint campaign supported by Philip Morris Brasil and São Paulo City Hall during the pandemic: Stay at home but don’t suffer at home. The city does indeed seem to be all in with the company. ACT informed in their last Bulletin that in 2020, São Paulo City Hall acknowledged and awarded the program entitled Empow#her, “whose  objective is to increase and recognize female leadership within the organization, and Stripes Brasil, focused on diversity and directed at ensuring the rights of LGBTI+ professionals”. 



The Institute sponsored by competitor BAT Brasil has a program aimed at young people aged 18 - 35 and develops a variety of projects, some of them specifically for women. Japan Tobacco International, on the other hand, who saw sales increase by 30% in Brazil in the first year of the pandemic, sponsored the inter-municipal meeting for women farmers in Southern Brazil, which is incidentally the country’s main tobacco producing region.

Another sector that promotes a range of supposedly feminist initiatives, but of a marketing character, is the agricultural industry. There is a variety of events, awards and articles, all embellishing and praising female empowerment in order to generate profits.

The “Agro Women” Award (Prêmio Mulheres do Agro) is an example. According to reports, it intends to encourage women to participate in agribusiness, disseminate best practices and acknowledge female contribution in agribusiness activities. Agrosaber, the press agency for the sector, a joint initiative between the Brazilian National Cotton Association (Abrapa), the National Association for Vegetal Defense (Associação Nacional de Defesa Vegetal - Andef) and the Brazilian Agricultural Cooperative Association (Companhia das Cooperativas Agrícolas do Brasil - CCAB Agro), developed a series of reports entitled “Women in Agribusiness” during March 2021. It is interesting to see that the site explains its mission as being in defense of draft bill 6299/02, also known as the “Poison PL”, which eases the rite of approval for pesticides. 

Moving on to the alcoholic beverage sector, another company which has been investing in the female realm as a way to work on its brand image is Ambev. Based on results obtained for the words “cervejeira” (female brewer) and “cervejeiro” (male brewer) on search engines, which showed clear gender inequality, the company developed a campaign focusing on professional women in the brewing sector. The campaign was produced by a mostly female team bearing a manifest to raise debate on the theme.



Nancy Fraser, a philosopher from the school of thought known as Critical Theory, defines feminism as “a movement which started as a critique of capitalist exploitation and ended up contributing to key ideas in its most recent neo-liberal phase”.  

Companies try to take advantage of social causes using them as corporate social responsibility actions, which despite being a sympathetic concept and aiming to encourage social development, in these cases seek to promote companies through what is known as branding, which is about managing brand identity and the ideas associated to them.

In our everyday lives we continue to see oppressive actions in the workplace in many companies, such as psychological and sexual harassment moral, in addition to sexist attitudes like mansplaining, when men explain the obvious to women, often in patronizing tones, as if they didn’t have the ability to understand, or manterrupting, the most common form in meetings and lectures, when men interrupt a woman in the middle of her speech. We also experience gaslighting, when men distort, leave out or create pieces of information, causing the woman to question her own judgement, and bropriating, when a man steals an idea or an argument made by a woman and acts as if it were his own, to name a few.  

It is therefore extremely necessary to recover the fight for gender equality without falling for these alleged good intentions in order to receive a high number of social media likes in female empowerment campaigns.  



The Next Station is:  [Name of your company]

Laura Cury, Ladyane Souza and Marília Albiero



At 40 years of age, the subway station named after Botafogo, one of the oldest districts in Rio de Janeiro, has just been renamed Botafogo-Coca-Cola. The new name is displayed at the entrances to the station as well as on the city signs and maps, accompanied, additionally, by audible warnings of the brand on the carriages, since the company name is now announced by loudspeakers as the trains approach the designated stop. 

The change occurred based on the sale of the station’s so-called naming rights by MetrôRio, the company that holds the concession for the public service which operates the subway transport system. This alternative form of marketing is common in Brazil at cultural entertainment venues, showhouses and football stadiums, but is still infrequent in public authority spaces. The reason given by MetrôRio for the operation was that in order to face the economic crisis, the naming rights sale was the alternative found in order to collect supplementary revenue. 

When asked by ACT via the Access to Information Act (Lei de Acesso à Informação) and Customer Services departments, both MetrôRio and Coca-Cola, and even the state-run agency which oversees the subway system public contracts, Agetransp, the Regulatory Agency for Public Concessions of Waterway, Railway, Subway and Highway Transports (Agência Reguladora de Transportes Públicos Concedidos de Transportes Aquaviários, Ferroviários, Metroviários e de Rodovias), could not – or would not – disclose the contract value, the existence or not of an offer to bid or indeed if there is any benefit passed on to the users. We know that in other countries this type of contract goes through a competitive screening process and can raise up to R$ 25 million per year.  



MetrôRio Concessionaire had already attempted in 2013 to alter the names of subway stations in Rio de Janeiro City through the concession of platform naming rights to companies interested, but then governor Sérgio Cabral vetoed the change, according to  reports at the time. This information emphasizes the legal argument that the concessionary company lacks the statutory authority to concede denomination rights to public spaces. 

The name of a station must be there to provide directions to public transport users regarding their location, route to be travelled and destination, allowing, furthermore, recognition of their surroundings. Renaming stations with brand names constitutes a form of injecting the market into new realms of society. Urban geographers use the term “toponymic commodification” for this redesigning of private brands in public spaces. This discussion took place in Washington, DC, in 2019, when the company responsible for the subway system in the U.S. capital attempted to attract resources through the concession of station names, which was strongly rejected by the population. 

There are cities that set restrictions regarding the types of business which may be presented. It is the case in Boston, where the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) does not consider proposals by “adult content” or firearm companies, political parties, family names, religious groups or brands of alcohol and tobacco on their transport systems, including stations.

The lack of distinction between what is public and what is private constitutes a problem. The State and the services provided are public, which leads to the famous Latin expression res publica, which means a thing of the people. Therefore, they must serve the population. It is a function of the State, for example, to provide public transport. In this regard, by selling the names of stations to companies, the impression conveyed may be that corporations were responsible for the construction of these structures, which are in fact publicly funded through tax collection. The sale of naming rights is corrosive to the commitment by the public sector to provide an equitable basic service to its population.

Thus, this is the type of theme which points towards the need for comprehensive public and legislative debate. Other Brazilian capital cities have already announced their intention to follow in the footsteps of MetrôRio, is in the case of São Paulo, a city where it is predicted that stations will be “brand renamed” for a period of 20 years.

It is worth pointing out that the population deals with excessive advertising every day: on billboards, commercial signs and posters, on radio and on television, on social media. It is important to remember that in Brazil, articles 36 and 37 of the Consumer Protection Code forbid covert advertising, additionally protecting consumers from advertising that disrespects environmental values, which is considered abusive. By renaming an urban space such as in the case of Botafogo/Coca-Cola, MetrôRio is allowing a considerable portion of its daily passengers, over 118 thousand of them according to Data Rio, to be exposed to the brand.


Estação Botafogo/Coca-Cola


The justification given by MetrôRio for selling the naming rights to Coca Cola may initially seem somewhat obvious: to increase revenue, especially with the crisis unleashed by the Covid-19 pandemic, which caused a drop in passenger numbers. But there are other costs included in the operation. By namewashing, which is done with the objective of improving image, the concessionaire and the company advertised are erasing local history, diminishing the area or neighborhood’s defining qualities, undermining public power, and are not contributing to the issue generated by the product being advertised. In this case, after all, sweetened beverages are connected to overweight and obesity, which in turn lead to other diseases, already acknowledged by science.  

The trademark rights discussion has even deserved a comedy sketch by comic group Porta dos Fundos. 

The fact is that we don’t want a society in which public spaces bear the names of private brands, least of all those which have harmful on the population. There should be at least restrictions imposed on the acquisition of the rights of companies who bring about various types of harm to the environment and to health. In the case of Rio de Janeiro, what will the next station or stop be? Imagine Presidente Vargas station becoming Souza Cruz station or BAT station, since the avenue is near the company’s head office? Or in a dystopian example on the São Paulo subway, are we to consider a Cambuci-Ambev or Pinheiros-Monsanto station? 



Review and editing: Anna Monteiro

Art direction: Ronieri Gomes


Monitoring team

Anna Monteiro

Bruna Hassan

Camila Maranha

Denise Simões

Fabiana Fregona

Laura Cury

Mariana Pinho

Marília Albiero

Victoria Rabetim




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Um dos objetivos da ACT é consolidar uma rede formada por representantes da sociedade civil interessados em políticas públicas de promoção da saúde a fim de multiplicar a causa.