We talk to the Founder and CEO of Worldview Impact, a social enterprise based in London with a mission to create sustainable business, working with local partners around the world
How was it growing up in the 80s and 90s in Shillong? What were your earliest influences?
Growing up in the 80s and 90s in Shillong was a unique experience. I studied at St Edmund’s School and College and I remember all the bandhs we had due to political unrest, schools were closed down for months at a time. Most students did not appear for exams in 1987 because of the Shillong agitation, but everyone ‘passed’.
When I was a boy, my dad Eric Bremley Lyngdoh, who was the leader of the youth volunteers during the Hill State Movement in the 60s and who later served in our first State cabinet when Meghalaya was born, told me that it is always better to give than to receive and so I have grown up living with that principle in whatever I do in my own life. Like my dad, my high school teacher Br Eric D’Souza who taught me at St Edmund’s School also really inspired me a lot and now I am trying to honour him by supporting a school that he established for children living in poverty called Providence in my hometown Shillong.
How did you go to work with the UN. What was your experience working with the organisation?
I left home at 17 on a mission: to see sustainable development pushed and practiced across the planet. I returned to India to join the Consortium of Indian Scientists for Sustainable Development and worked on a project to combat desertification and to regenerate the desert ecosystem in Rajasthan. This was followed by the prestigious WWF Prince Bernhard Scholarship for Environmental Leadership.
I then joined UNDP and worked on the Gulf of Mannar biodiversity protection project in Tamil Nadu. This led to a move to New York to join the UN Commission on Sustainable Development Secretariat where I worked with the different major groups of Agenda 21. Our then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee appointed me as the Youth Representative for India at the UN Millennium Summit where I addressed world leaders at the 2000 Millennium Assembly. I then joined the Environment Department of the World Bank and worked on linking poverty reduction and environmental management by analyzing policy challenges and opportunities after which I moved to Boston and joined the Education Development Center working on the Youth Employment Summit Campaign.
How did Worldview Impact begin? Please tell us a little about the work it does.
I undertook some initial research on the impact of climate change on the livelihoods of the poor while doing my Masters at the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University in New York in 2001. Later in 2004 after a few consultations with my mentor Dr Arne Fjortoft, I developed a sustainable concept for doing business which was then incubated at the London School of Economics and Political Science where I was doing my research in Sustainable Development Studies at the Development Studies Institute. I started Worldview Impact as a social enterprise in London on 28th August 2007 with a mission to create sustainable business, working with our local partners around the world.
All our projects are being implemented in line with achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) by 2030, in addition to effective mitigation of CO2 at the local level contributing to the 2015 UN Paris Climate Agreement. Now, I am working with SDG generation and the beneficiaries of the projects we implement in our target countries like Colombia, Brazil, Mexico, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Sri Lanka, Nepal, India and Myanmar are the most vulnerable people living in fragile ecosystems under stress who have been suffering from the impact of climate change and conflict over the years.
What are the challenges you have faced along the way? What have been your defining moments in life?
As a dreamer and an explorer, I have faced many challenges along the way so I try to always find solutions using my training in environmental diplomacy and social entrepreneurship. I try to reduce my stress levels by running marathons for charities, dancing the tango and listing to jazz music whenever I can. Being an entrepreneur can be a very lonely journey and when I started my social enterprise, I faced a lot of challenges with support and funding. Thankfully, I stayed on target with my mission to make an impact at the grassroots.
The most defining moment of my life was to be able to build the brand for Worldview Impact for the last 10 years as a global social enterprise that provides bespoke services for cooperatives of small hold organic farmers in developing countries to integrate and expand agro-forestry integrated farming systems that bring local products to market and create market linkages with the merging sectors of regenerative supply chains and agro-ecotourism. For our clients, we also do project development, feasibility studies, capacity building and training, environmental, social and economical impact assessments, marketing and financing.
Why do you think the Northeast despite being the 7th biodiversity hotspot in the world lacking in development? Have we not been able to utilise our resources, both natural and human?
Indeed the Northeast despite being the 7th biodiversity hotspot in the world is lacking behind in its sustainable development targets. Sadly, we lack real leaders with strong political will and passion to really make a deep and long lasting impact in the region. On that note, I am now working in partnership with Route2 in London whose foundations are economics and ecosystems. The Founder, Dr Daniel Lopez Dias completed his PhD under the auspices of Dr Robert Costanza at the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics, which involved advising President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.
To this end, I am workingwith Route2 to design, develop and implement a new Ecosystem Service Assessment and Evaluation Standard and tradeable token, using blockchain distributed ledger technology. This standard will ascertain the annual economic value of ecosystem services delivered by the forests that we restore, which will enable to make it sustainable and incentivise stewardship and forest expansion by utilising both our natural and human capital in a sustainable way in line with the UN SDGs.
What are your long term goals?
My long term goal is to create an organic revolution for the small hold farmers of Northeast India training and support them with new technologies that can add value to their agriculture produce thereby improving their livelihood strategies and lifting them out of the poverty trap of subsistence farming. I plan to link them to international markets in the EU and US where certified organic products from the Northeast can be sold at a premium building a global Northeast brand.
By Nasreen Habib