Venture Capitalist Durrie Hassan On Driving Environmental And Social Impact

Close Up

July 17, 2017 | BY Kathlyn D'Souza

The executive director of Carlton Mansfield Capital breaks down what he’s been up to in the social and environmental sector, all for the greater good of the world.

As executive director of Carlton Mansfield Capital (a Hong Kong-based company providing integrated financial services to government, banks, corporates and individuals engaging in cross-border trade or investment with China) we can imagine that Durrie Hassan’s work life is as hectic as it can get. 

However, as we got to know him as part of our Generation T listers, we also discovered that apart from having a passion for playing the guitar, reading and collecting postcards, Durrie also has a great desire to do good – both personally and in his work – especially when it comes to driving environmental and social impact.

Take for example, when asked what his ideal superpower would be and why, he answered, “The power to make all plant life forms grow in an instant with a single touch. Ideally, I would first make the world carbon negative, and then retire to become a farmer who also does landscape architecture.” 

We speak to him for more inspiration:

 If you could see and meet yourself from a third person’s point of view, how would you describe yourself?
"These are the types of questions that I eventually get teased about, but here goes anyway: ‘He listens more than he talks, and he’s working with some really cool and impactful companies. I would love to find out how I can get involved in improving the state of the world!"

What were your career highlights in the past two years?
"Towards the end of 2015, I was able to see the results of helping grow the current company in the Greater China region, namely through the deal flow, partnerships, and acquisitions. I spent most of 2016 utilising our access to networks and resources generated to invest in sectors outside of the mobile technology and big data space. In the last quarter, I started a new division to focus on impact investment in the Asia Pacific region. Our capital is fully invested, and we are working with some fantastic companies who are really driving environmental and social impact."

Tell us about that new division.
"I invest in and help build companies that focus on improving human and environmental wellbeing, and I started the division to initially supplement the current philanthropy work under my scope. Purely philanthropic interventions are still necessary in the world, but I also wanted to work on developing successful and sustainable social enterprises. The team is situated around Asia, and deploys funds separate to the head office so that the investment model can be fine-tuned." 

Speaking of those fantastic companies that are really driving environmental and social impact ...
"
Agrea is a Philippines agriculture-based social enterprise that is developing a one-island economy model, in which farming communities help attain food sufficiency and reduce all waste and imports. I am particularly bullish about Agrea because it tackles so many issues that almost all Asian countries will face, whether it is solving food security, improving the lives of underserved communities, or becoming more environmentally sustainable.

"ShuR is a Japanese company that offers a range of services related to sign language, including the world’s first sign language keyboard and crowd-sourced sign language dictionary. What I really like about this is how the system is built to deal with a constantly evolving language (new signs have to be created to match spoken words, and there are over 130 sign languages in the world!), and how it democratises the process."

What is the choosing criteria like?
"The focus starts with the founder and the team, to understand the drive and work culture around achieving the vision of the company. Then it is all about the reach and growth potential of the company, especially if impact can be realized in other countries."

Who would you like to work with in the future? 
"The next thematic area we are currently assessing is ocean conservation, particularly around dealing with plastic waste. There are a lot of amazing companies that make use of the waste, such as YLC in Cebu or Miniwiz in Taipei, and we are also exploring how to work with the public sector so that we are reducing instead of removing this waste."

What changes would you like to see or help drive in our country?
"I want to continue to see an increasing number of Malaysians pursue self-development and growth, whether by learning or doing new things both inside and outside of work. The benefits of multiculturalism are that we were brought up with empathy and awareness, which feeds into the nation’s current state of resilience. It is important for us to keep pushing for improvement of the self and community, despite the challenging economic and political circumstances."

What is your definition of success?
"Doing something that you enjoy, and finding a way to do good as well."

What is the source of your willpower and why?
"The desire to be a better version of myself. The people that I work or volunteer with serve as inspiration, as they have achieved so much and helped so many others. There is no shortage of ways to do good, and I’m always meeting new people doing new things, so that motivates me to keep doing as much as I can."

What legacy would you like to leave behind?
"I think it would be really cool if I could inspire people to discover their own way to help others who need it, and to do something good for the environment."

Photo: Moses Ng

More from Generation T: 5 Ways To Get Into Social Entrepreneurship, According to Ganesh Muren