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Nelmara Arbex

Nelmara Arbex, Chief Advisor on Innovation in Reporting at the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)

Dr Nelmara Arbex is an expert in the field of sustainability and business, and also works as an independent consultant. Previously, she was Deputy Chief Executive at GRI, in charge of Guidance, Support and Innovation; in this role she supervised the development of the most recent GRI Reporting Guidelines (G4), other content development and services. She started at GRI in 2006 as Director of Learning Program and Reports Services, which she led until 2010. These activities involve a global network with members from  more than 30 countries. Before that, Nelmara was Associate Consultant at McKinsey & Co in Brazil, was the head of Knowledge Management and International Relations at the Ethos Institute  and  set up the Corporate Responsibility department at Natura Cosmetics, Brazil, where she developed and implemented the company's management system for sustainability and reporting, implemented national campaigns and regional sustainable development plans. She was also responsible for the company’s  sustainability education program for managers and executives. In the last ten years she has designed and co-authored several articles and publications in the sustainability and business field, including the Portuguese website and blog "Sustentabilidade com Pimenta". Currently, she is a Council member of various organisations, such as the Sustainability Council at AMATA Brasil, the International Advisory Council at CORDAID and the Advisory Council at SIM – Sustainable Supply Chains. Nelmara holds a PhD in Theoretical Physics from Marburg University, Germany (1997).

Why did you choose to apply to the Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Business?

I have been working in the Business & Sustainability field for over a decade and was looking for a programme that would help me to refresh my references and learn new ways to approach difficult topics. I was also looking to expand my network.  At the same time, I needed to study in combination with a very busy work schedule.  I found the Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Business course to be exactly what I was looking for, and was convinced that it was relevant, broad and flexible.

What role have you been undertaking in your company recently? How does this connect to the sustainability agenda?

Currently I am Chief Advisor on “Innovation in Reporting” at the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and an independent consultant in the Netherlands. At GRI, my role is to explore which type of innovations in corporate reporting  are needed to advance the transition to a sustainable economy. I work with business and thought leaders, and explore the main issues that they believe society and business will be facing in the next decade, and which type of reporting will be meaningful in such a scenario. As a consultant I work with companies and other organisations helping leaders to find innovative ways to face sustainability-related challenges.

What did you find to be the most valuable aspect of PCSB?

Firstly, the contact with colleagues and the PCSB network.  The opportunity to talk to colleagues facing real problems inside of their organisations, listen to so many different ways to tackle issues and be able to exchange ideas with the tutors, presenters and directors has been a great source of inspiration for me. Secondly, I found the immense list of references and resources extremely valuable too. Although it was almost impossible to read and digest all what was offered, I learnt a lot about many topics, from many different perspectives. Finally, I must say that I really enjoyed the challenge of having to write the assignments, especially the group project, as this was an opportunity to transform relevant questions in a real research project, which concluded with a paper containing main findings.

What impressed you about the Cambridge programme as opposed to other courses on offer elsewhere?

From the content perspective, most of the other programmes available at the moment have a very specific focus. This programme was designed to offer a broad overview for participants. I was impressed by the amount of content and the range of topics the course covered. I was also impressed by the variety of participants’ background, as I am convinced about the importance of diversity in exploring new ideas and solutions.

How have you applied the learning back in your organisation and beyond? 

Learning about the different sustainable development models, strategy and monetisation of externalities for different sectors have added great value to my professional development and to my projects. I have used the content of my assignments in many discussions and projects since then.


Jake Attfield 161x168Jake Attfield, IT outsourcing

Jake Attfield lives and works in the UK.  He studied History of Art & the History and Philosophy of Science at Leeds University before embarking on a career in IT outsourcing. Over a period of 14 years in the industry, Jake has held various positions ranging from project management, client facing and direct sales roles, and contract and commercial management positions. Jake has also been a company-nominated Trustee of the defined benefit pension scheme set up in response to a M&A activity by the company in 2007.  

Why did you choose to study for the Postgraduate Certificate (PG Cert)?

I have an undergraduate degree in the Arts but have worked for most of my career in the technology market. I was looking for a post-graduate course in a topic I was passionate about, which could also help to develop my career.  PCSB stood out above all other courses I looked into. Sustainability is a personal driver for me and I was very conscious that the company I work for – and to some extent the whole industry – were not recognising or addressing key global challenges, including climate change and human rights abuses.  I wanted to learn more about the real issues, future trends, and how technology and innovation could make a difference. I was also interested in how big business, across different industries, were addressing the key challenges, how they prioritised their work and built the business case for sustainability, so I could take this back into my working environment.    

What role have you been undertaking in your company recently? How does this connect to the sustainability agenda?

My role is running the business operations team, which is responsible for all governance, process improvement, risk management and corporate reporting activities.  As such, I have good visibility of all activities and programmes, both internally and externally that we are involved in or working on.  Whilst we have done some good work, we did not have a dedicated CSR or Sustainability function. However, based on the knowledge I acquired in PCSB, I have been working with the different areas of the business to coordinate all relevant activities, align them to our business plan and create a responsible business programme, which now has board sponsorship and will form a key part of company strategy. 

What have you found to be the most valuable aspect of the PG Cert?

The cohort was really diverse; lots of different industries were represented from across the globe and this really added to the experience. It helped me to understand the different priorities placed on the key global trends, the differing impacts that these were having across the world, what was being prioritised by companies, governments and NGOs, and where the successes and failures had been.

Perhaps most critically, however, the biggest learning was that everything we do relates back to sustainability. The mega trends including climate change, resource scarcity, globalisation and human rights need to be addressed for organisations to be truly successful.  To do this, they need to take a long term view, take into account the views and needs of all their stakeholders and, if necessary, takes some difficult decisions to reposition themselves for the future.  

What impressed you about the Cambridge PG Cert as opposed to other courses on offer elsewhere?

Cambridge is a wonderful place to learn. The surroundings, the facilities and the expertise available to support my learning really set this course apart from anything similar I looked into. I would wholeheartedly recommend PCSB to anyone looking to pursue post-graduate study; the course material and benefits of the programme are not just limited to those interested in pursuing a sustainability agenda, but will help anyone interested in global trends, leadership, strategy or change management.



Madhu HewakapugeMadhu Hewakapuge, Manager – Sustainable Business and Communications at Unilever Sri Lanka

Madhu joined as a Management Trainee and has worked in Corporate Communications and Human Resources functions of her company. In her current role, Madhu is responsible for aligning Unilever Sri Lanka to Unilever’s global sustainability strategy and embedding sustainability into the ways of working of the local business. She also drives employee engagement and external communication at Unilever Sri Lanka, and bears the responsibility for the running of the Unilever Foundation in Sri Lanka, which is a key initiative in leading Unilever’s global ambition of improving the health and wellbeing of one billion people. Madhu enjoys reading, writing, travelling and teaching English as a second language.

Why did you choose to apply to the Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Business?

Five years ago I joined an organization that was embarking on a transformative journey to embed sustainable business practices into its entire value chain. As the result of these efforts I became interested in broader, global sustainable development issues and how they impact the economy, industries and businesses. I wanted to learn more about the major socio-economical and environmental challenges facing our world today which would help me understand how business and industry can not only reduce their negative impact to the world but also increased their positive impact. This was initial thinking that prompted me to look for a postgraduate qualification in this field of study.

What role have you been undertaking in your company recently? How does this connect to the sustainability agenda?

I work as the Sustainability Manager of my company, which means that I am at the focal point of the company’s sustainability agenda. I work with different functions of the business to align their sustainability initiatives into the company’s overall plan, and also help identify opportunities for different teams to collaborate across functions. I also drive employee engagement regarding the company’s sustainability efforts, encouraging employees to become sustainability ambassadors.

What did you find to be the most valuable aspect of PCSB?

Undoubtedly the most valuable aspect of the programme is the opportunity to meet and build networks with likeminded people, who are passionate about sustainable development issues and sustainable business practices. The members of our cohort were from such a wide variety of backgrounds that it provides with you a rich, diverse pool of knowledge and information to tap into. It is also really heartening to interact with people who are fighting the same fight as you, and very inspiring to hear how they have overcome challenges both within and outside their organisations to embed sustainability into their business practices.

How have you applied the learning back in your organisation and beyond?

The work that we do in PCSB most often addresses live sustainability challenges within our organizations, which means that whatever projects we undertake as part of the programme can be directly related back to the organization. In my case, my individual work was done on the issue of sustainable agriculture and farming, which was directly related to ongoing projects within the company. It was a great opportunity to be able to devise a solution to this problem, and then also to have the feedback of the assessors, which provided valuable insights into how the plan I had come up with could be developed into a viable, applicable solution.

What impressed you about the Cambridge programme as opposed to other courses on offer elsewhere?

I wanted a programme that would looks at sustainability from a business perspective, and offer solutions and innovations that I can learn from and apply to back to my organisation. I was also excited about the structure of distance study, coupled with the residential workshops and assignments, which allowed me to study while working, providing a unique flavour of postgraduate learning.

Whilst PCSB delivered on all of this, it also went above and beyond my expectations. It was really an eye opener about the issues that we are faced with as a collective whole, how far we have to go to mitigate some of these challenges. It was also an absolutely inspirational experience to meet so many people who are on the same journey as you, and understand best practice examples of how governments, corporates, NGOs, media, consumers, and various stakeholders across the board could come together to take steps that would lead to change.


Workshop dates

Workshop 1: 2–5 July 2018
Workshop 2: 12–15 November 2018

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Senior Programme Manager