Olympic Gymnast Rebeca Andrade Helps to Engage Generation Z in the Sustainability Debate

Jun 21, 2023

Meet Our People and Partners / Feature Story


Olympic Gymnast Rebeca Andrade Helps to Engage Generation Z in the Sustainability Debate

Rebeca Andrade—a Panasonic GREEN IMPACT ambassador

2022 world all-round champion and history-making gymnast Rebeca Andrade is the first Brazilian woman to win Olympic gold in her sport. Like many among the so-called Generation Z—roughly those aged between 12 and 25—she is passionate about protecting the environment.

Panasonic is reaching out to this generation of young people—not only to understand their consumption habits and preferences, but also to engage them and leverage their ideas for environmental protection. To better connect with this young generation, the company has appointed Rebeca as an ambassador of its ambitious Panasonic GREEN IMPACT (PGI) long-term environmental vision, under which the company commits to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2030 across all of its operations globally.

Panasonic has a large presence in Rebeca’s home country Brazil, the world’s sixth most populous nation with 60% of the earth’s rainforests. The company’s Brazilian subsidiary PANABRAS is working closely with local partners on a wide range of environmental protection initiatives.

On April 25 Rebeca joined 12 digital influencers and 4 PANABRAS employees at a Green Roundtable event hosted by PANABRAS aimed at generating awareness of the company’s PGI initiatives among the youth of Brazil and engaging them in the formulation of concrete actions to achieve a more sustainable world. The event was live-streamed and attracted a large interactive audience across the country.

“Green Roundtable” with Rebeca and other young influencers

The ideas behind ESG

Rebeca addressed the attendees at the opening of the roundtable. “Many of you know me from my work as a gymnast, but I’m also an activist for sustainability,” she explained. “That’s why Panasonic invited me to be their brand ambassador. I’m thrilled about this collaboration.”

The attendees were initially asked for their thoughts on two environmental concepts that are now regularly in the news: Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) and the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Photo: Green Roundtable event hosted by PANABRAS

Many of the participants admitted that ESG in particular was a new concept for them. Said Rebeca: “When I first read about ESG, it took me a while to understand the meaning of each of the letters. But once you understand them, it gets easier to know how you can put the ideas behind them into practice.”

One of the influencers helpfully explained that ESG is basically a new way of defining sustainability. “The ‘E’ aspect is about companies minimizing the impact they have on the local environment; the ‘S’ part is about companies paying attention to the social needs of their local communities.” She added, “The ‘G’ aspect—governance—is a new perspective; it’s about companies making their sustainability efforts more transparent to their shareholders and encouraging other companies in their supply chain to embrace sustainability.”

Gen Z’s concern for sustainable lifestyles and emotional sustainability

Participants debated whether the members of Generation Z, who were born using the internet in a totally digital universe, are more willing to change their habits in order to help achieve a sustainable future.

Rebeca thought so. “In particular because it’s easier for us,” she said. “We always try to focus on the positives. Every day we learn something new and share it with others.”

Photo: Olympic Gymnast Rebeca Andrade

Some of the influencers countered that many in the Gen-Z generation are accustomed to buying something new every month; new clothes because of constantly changing fashions, or the latest smartphone model. Said one, “I like the way Panasonic is focusing on conscientious consumption and how they recycle used products. In a way, they are helping to encourage young people to adopt more sustainable lifestyles.”

Cautioned a fellow participant, “We have to remember that there is inequality; not all of Gen-Z are digital natives. Food waste is for sure a general problem, but many young people also go hungry every day.” Added another, “This generation has a lot of anxiety, so I think emotional sustainability is important for them.” Picking up on this, the moderator suggested that older generations need to show “a little humility and listen more to the young and their concerns about issues like sustainability.”

The role companies like Panasonic play in promoting sustainability

What role can big companies like Panasonic play? Suggested one of the attendees, “They can lead the way by setting an example that other smaller companies will want to follow and by imposing sustainability compliance on the companies in their supply chain.”

Rebeca asked how Panasonic is helping to reduce electronic waste. A company spokesperson explained how in Brazil they have partnered with a firm that collects discarded consumer products like fridges and washing machines and ensures these are disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner.

The overall message that emerged from the roundtable was that individual action is where it starts; small changes by individuals can make a huge difference and there is no need for a “big bang” approach where everyone has change all their habits overnight. “Sustainability,” said one, “is generally imperfect.” 

Photo: Olympic Gymnast Rebeca Andrade

Panasonic GREEN IMPACT program in Brazil

Engaging young people in forums like this is just one part of Panasonic’s wider efforts to inform and shape its own sustainability initiatives.

As part of the Panasonic’s GREEN IMPACT program and its target of zero CO2 emissions by 2030, in Brazil the company will be investing more than 60 million US dollars in the expansion of the zero-CO2 emission Extrema plant, which produces refrigerators and washing machines. Reused water is used to cool the plant’s machinery, and 100% of surplus or damaged materials from the production line are recycled. The company has planted trees to help offset its emissions.

The company also has ambitious plans to produce its own electricity at the plant from solar panels. In partnership with the company Pontoon Clean Tech, it expects by 2024 to produce 50% of its total electricity requirement itself.

Drawing on her experience as an Olympic sportswoman, Rebeca offers a final suggestion as to how young people can help achieve a more sustainable society. “We can get places by ourselves, but doing it as a team, with others, is so much better. Little by little, we can all get there and change the world.”

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