Bus of Dreams Purpose Climate Lab

Advocating for cleaner fuel and a healthier São Paulo

The City Council of São Paulo, Brazil was tasked with determining who, how and where the citys buses would be managed over the next 20 years, including reviewing a law to replace diesel buses. Purpose’s Climate Lab, along with Greenpeace, Idec, the Institute of Health and Sustainability, My Sampa and Rede São São Paulo, launched a campaign to advocate for a law that would guarantee clean fuel in the bus fleet of the largest city in Brazil.

02. Insight & Strategy


The largest city in Latin America also has the largest bus system on the continent. 6 million passengers travel through São Paulo every day, across 14 thousand buses and spending almost R $7 billion per year. However, the quality of the service provided is low, causing people to switch from public transportation to car or motorcycle whenever possible. And despite the impressive size of the municipal fleet, until 2017 only 2% were moved to clean and renewable energy, even though there was a 2009 municipal law requiring 100% clean buses by 2018. The consequences of noncompliance were impressive: more than 4,700 deaths per year related to air pollution.


The bidding process of the citys bus companies was scheduled to resume in the second semester of 2017, and the process would determine who, how and where the citys buses would be managed within the next 20 years. Meanwhile, a law from 2009 stipulated the substitution of bus fuel to reduce the emission of pollutants by 2018. Since the law was not enforced or followed, it had to be reviewed in order to demand new pollutant reduction plans from companies through new concession agreements.

It became clear that there was an opportunity to show the city council the magnitude of the decision they were about to make: either leaving things the way they were, or choosing a brighter future with less pollution and a healthier population.

Theory of Change

By partnering with civil society organizations and private sector actors, and sharing a new narrative linking air pollution to poor health impacts through traditional press and social networks …

We achieved the necessary pressure to persuade the City Council to define a clear schedule for reducing pollutants in the São Paulo bus fleet …

Thus ensuring that the city was the first in the country to have legislation of this type and paving the way for other Brazilian cities to follow suit in the near future.


We created a narrative about health issues linked to dirty air which spoke directly to both the public and the traditional press. Radio spots exposing decision makers were created, and an online petition and street actions focused on grabbing the press’s attention. We also created content for social networks which broadened the reach of the campaign.

03. Impact

A new law was passed in December 2017 with fines to be paid by companies for each non-standard bus, and with the following reduction targets:

CO2: 50% in up to 10 years and 100% in up to 20 years 
NOx: 80% in up to 10 years and 95% in up to 20 years 
Material: 90% in up to 10 years and 95% in up to 20 years.

We have achieved more than 290 placements in local and national press, including TV, newspaper and radio, reaching more than 8 million people. On Facebook, 80,000 people were reached over 6 months of campaigning.

More than 13 thousand emails were sent to councilors asking for approval of the bill, and we also guaranteed the holding of 3 public hearings and 14 meetings between the coalition and councilmen, experts, partners and companies on the subject.

04. Video
05. Social Graphics