SDG Pioneer for Small-to-Medium Enterprises

Ana Paula Arbache

CEO & Founder, Arbache Innovations

Brazil

Latin America and the Caribbean

Embracing the superhero within: Becoming an SDG Pioneer is like becoming a sustainability superhero, fighting to make our world greener and fairer. What's your special power for this mission?

My special power for this mission is education. I've been an educator since I was 17 and I've taught both adults and children how to read and write. In the past, I was a professor at a public university. Currently, I work as a professor at a business school in Brazil. It is through education that we can transform people and the world.

I teach an average of seven classes yearly that promote the brand and actions of the UN Global Compact, the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs. I have been advocating for the UN Global Compact in my mentorship of leaders who take the online MIT Professional Educational Innovation Leadership Program for Portuguese Speaking Countries. 

I founded the Hub Mulher collective, a movement of young people and women volunteers who carry out projects to advance SDGs 1, 4, 5, 8 and 10, creating a solid network of partnerships and allies that have been developing since 2018.

Origin story: Please briefly describe your journey towards becoming an SDG Pioneer 

I am a founding partner of HR Tech Arbache Innovations. Since 2018, I have been responsible for the company's sustainability area. Through our company, we further disseminate information related to the SDGs, particularly SDG 5. I developed the Women's Empowerment Page Mundo Mulher, which creates a platform of knowledge, best practices, research and gamified tools for education on human rights and diversity.

To unite education and technology, I created an innovative digital game library capable of taking knowledge of the SDGs anywhere and anytime in a digital and free way. The “game library of education for human rights and diversity” is our great scalability strategy to bring education to all.

I also created the Self People Diversity Assessment, which maps four skills aimed at creating and sustaining a culture focused on diversity and inclusion in companies. The assessment is already being applied in some companies, MBA and undergraduate classrooms. Through the program, it is also possible to generate analytics indicating the level of maturity of companies that seek to drive forward an agenda of diversity, inclusion and ESG.

At the company, I was CEO for three years (2020 – 2023), and I was able to foster and create a culture of diversity internally. This was even with a predominantly male workforce, and so I learned to put SDG 5 into action – in products, management and culture. We invested heavily in our game library and volunteer work.

Turning passion into purpose: Your SDG Pioneer recognition shines a spotlight on your incredible work. Please explain the work for which you are being recognized as an SDG Pioneer and how your interest in this field developed.

My passion for education and my discovery that education would be the way I would transform people and society developed very early for me. Upon starting my doctorate, my advisor introduced me to ethics, and I conducted research about racial quotas in Brazilian public universities, deepening my studies about racism in Brazil. In my postdoctoral studies, I dedicated my research to training leaders for sustainability with the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs.

Every epic tale has its share of challenges: Please share some challenges and battles you've encountered while pursuing your SDG ambitions.

The biggest challenge is calling on allies to disseminate projects and practices, mainly government and companies. The digital game library we prepared is ready and our goal is to reach people worldwide with this resource. We have gamified tools available in English and Spanish, but it takes a lot of effort to inform and engage partners. As a startup in this project, we struggle with financial and capacity limitations. Our goal is to advance the strategy and dissemination of this very important platform for education on human rights and diversity. 

Accomplishments: As part of your SDG journey, what stands out as the most rewarding? Please describe a moment that made you feel like you were unlocking a new level of impact.

When I was nominated to become CEO of the company in March 2020, our partners supported this decision and it was an important milestone in my career. I didn't expect to become CEO and when the opportunity arose, I accepted it to learn and to inspire other young women to be brave and follow this path too. With this position, I managed to act more strongly in international forums, including the UN Global Compact and UN Women. My goal was always to bring partners and allies to engage in the sustainability and diversity actions in the company. I also built connections that helped increase the impact of our actions on many different fronts, including a debate on the presence of women CEOs in startups with investment funds.

Through the creation, consolidation and recognition of the game library, I have united various stakeholders, furthering a movement built on open innovation. We have pushed towards action, creating a community of value to help create and disseminate our gamified tools. 

Currently, these tools are used in public schools, female penitentiaries and universities, along with national and international companies. With these tools, anyone can access and learn for free at any time and place. The awards we received in 2022 highlighted the impact of our game library. We are utilizing education and technology to try and make the world a better place. Even though we are a start-up without many resources, we use strategy and technology to impact a wide range of people. 

Next chapters: What’s next in your career and journey? Please give us a sneak peek!

Regarding my teaching career, I have been working to strengthen the discussion and knowledge about careers in STEM for young people and women. I am a learning facilitator for the program MIT Professional Education online. This is an important space to be in and contributes significantly to forming the next generation of female leaders. 

At the Hub Mulher collective, where I am the Founder and Chairman of the Board, we have sought to disseminate information surrounding the SDGs and make our contribution to the world.

An important step that I intend to take in the future is to act as a counselor on the advisory boards of companies, contributing my knowledge and insight to businesses that wish to further integrate the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs into their purpose and activities.

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