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  • Katie Cabanas, Founder

Corporate Social Responsibility at Cisneros with Maria Ignacia Arcaya

Welcome to the the Doing Well by Doing Good Series.

Today Cabanas Consulting welcomes Maria Ignacia Arcaya, Vice President and Executive Director, Corporate Social Responsibility at the Cisneros Group of Companies. Maria Ignacia is responsible for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) across business units at the Cisneros Corporation.

With academic degrees in education and executive education certificates in CSR, Maria Ignacia has more than twenty years experience in developing strategic and high-impact programs across the globe that support the greater goals of the Cisneros Corporation. Please welcome, Maria Ignacia Arcaya.


Q: Maria Ignacia, Can you tell our readers how the Cisneros Group of Companies defines CSR?

At Cisneros, CSR goes beyond a definition or a mission statement. For almost 90 years, a drive to leverage business endeavors to achieve social impact has been a part of the DNA of this third-generation family-owned group of companies. Over the past decades there has been a global tendency to promote a shift from strategic philanthropy, to corporate social responsibility and lastly to creating shared value. At Cisneros, we identify ongoing opportunities for generating positive impact across all three spheres.

For instance, in developing markets where great strides have been made to provide access to education for all but quality still lacks far behind, we take on a strategic philanthropy approach by supporting teacher training and innovation programs through Fundación Cisneros. Across our businesses, on the

other hand, we identify opportunities to catapult the positive impact that can be generated by the

company’s core business and resources, as well as opportunities to generate value for both the

company and for its stakeholders.

Q:Both the Cisneros family and Group of Companies have a long history of corporate social responsibility. Additionally, the Group has a footprint across multiple vertical industries and countries; how do you focus your CSR to leverage resources for maximum impact?

The industries that we work in are structured in three business units identified as: Media, Real Estate and Interactive. Each unit, and each particular company, provides a unique context and a different set of business priorities and opportunities for social responsibility.

However, as a starting point, we use the global agenda as a common framework, seeking to align all of our initiatives according to the potential influence of our companies on the Sustainable Development

Goals (SDGs) set forth by the United Nations. As opposed to the prior development goals, known as the UN Millennium Goals, 2000-2015, the process of determining the new SDGs incorporated input from

the private sector. This private sector input allowed for a more integral vision and elevated the role of business in achieving said goals.

One of the SDGs that we are universally committed to across Cisneros is

Gender Equality. We have been able to integrate efforts that generate awareness around gender

issues such as violence against women, developed a summer program for at-risk girls, and

applied a gender lens to other initiatives to guarantee equal opportunities and wherever

possible achieve a 50/50 representation of men and women amongst our beneficiaries.

When developing corporate sustainability strategy of a given company, we look at every

aspect of its operations and map out its stakeholders, so as to not only take into account

opportunities for positive social impact, but also for minimizing environmental impact and

contributing to environmental balance, and for creating shared value for the community and the

company. Tropicalia, Cisneros Real Estate’s flagship sustainable tourism project, is an excellent

example of this vision, which is materialized via a multi-disciplinary Sustainability Committee


  • meets annually to guide business decisions

  • develops a proprietary Sustainability Management System;

  • runs a corporate foundation that implements programs in the community in the areas of education, productivity, environment

  • advocates for socio-cultural programs aligned with business

  • prioritizes the needs of the community

Q: The telenovela is iconic across Latin America. Full disclosure, the telenovela is how this Gringa really learned the conjunctive Spanish verb tenses. So how does programming known for

traditional male and female roles - ones that are sometime filled with machismo - reconcile

with a company like Cisneros that is elevating the topic of gender equality?

There is a long tradition of the telenovela genre in the entertainment industry, and while many

productions have evolved from the traditional plot in which “poor girl meets rich man and they

live happily ever after”, there is still indeed a long road ahead to achieve the portrayal of

characters in such a way that negative stereotypes are not reinforced for either men nor women.

At Cisneros, we are conscious that cultural changes take time, but we are also aware of the

potential impact of media in cultural change, and we are committed for the long-term.

Given the immense popularity of telenovelas and other entertainment programming, and the

national reach of the Cisneros broadcast TV station Venevision in Venezuela, creating content

that can have a positive impact has been a key to our CSR strategy. We have created numerous

awareness campaigns, and in 2013, as part of our long term commitment to address gender

issues, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding with UN Women, the United Nations entity

for gender equality and the empowerment of women. This collaboration has guided our most

recent campaigns, and has given us access to the technical assistance required to provide our

talent, producers, hosts and creative teams with insights about gender sensitive content such as

the objectification of women and reinforcing stereotypes.

In addition, our CSR team has worked closely with telenovela script writers to identify

opportunities to work with both positive and negative scenes, and dialogues, to invite our

audience to reflect on women’s rights issues.

This video illustrates the Cisneros Group's commitment to artfully and strategically addressing the issue of gender equality in telenovelas.

Q: In conclusion, how do you see CSR programs at Cisneros evolving and what are the biggest challenges?

Our goal is to continue to evolve towards embedding environmental, social and governance

(ESG) standards in the development of new businesses within the group, as we have achieved at


The biggest challenges lie in setting up the appropriate policies, partner agreements,

and monitoring and reporting tools to engage both internal and external stakeholders in this



Thank you Maria Ignacia! As we heard, the right strategic plan - aligned to a greater set of goals - is critical to the deployment of any CSR program. In fact, that kind of strategic planning and project management is how we support many of our clients. Thanks to Maria Ignacia’s candor and real-world examples, I am thrilled to have seen a glimpse into the world-class corporate social responsibility programs that the Cisneros Group champions.

Stay tuned for the second part of our conversation to learn how you can apply some of these principles to your business – big or small.

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