Shreyak Mahajan, was crowned the youth ambassador under LEADearthSHIP, a TERI-Tetra Pak initiative, and even won a trip to Antarctica. He speaks to Prachi Rege about his invaluable experience in the glacial land and his project on environmental education
1) When were you introduced to LEADearthSHIP?
I came across LEADearthSHIP around the time I was searching for an avenue to take my ideas about education in the environment sphere forward. Fortunately all worked in my favor and I was among the 24 fellows selected across India for the fellowship. When I was midway through my project E3-Education, Environment, Empowerment I received a notification that its next part- The Antarctica Calling Competition was open to application. As with all the participants, I too had strong expectations of winning and was selected as the Youth Ambassador for Tetra Pak. I won the International Antarctica Expedition (IAE) 2014.
2) Please share your experience at IAE 2014?
It was two weeks of intense and exhausting experience that gave me invaluable insights, motivating me to take up more initiatives on my return to India. It also gave me unique skills and knowledge. The expedition was called “leadership on the edge”, and was designed to bring together corporate and youth leaders to Antarctica to learn about climate change and sustainability. My typical day consisted of zodiac excursions, leadership lectures and sessions on climate change and sustainability. However, a major chunk of the day was devoted to exploring the peninsula in teams, climbing glaciers and observing the flora and fauna. Certain experiences I shall hold on for life include seeing a humpback whale from a mere two feet in wild, camping in the Antarctic Peninsula and taking a plunge in its waters.
Tell us more about your LEADearthship project?
My project is called E3 and it aims to educate youth (in rural/semi-urban schools) in the age bracket 16-21 on renewable energy, biodiversity and water through games, activities and audio visual medium. E3 stands for the 3 pillars of change as I see it—Environment, Education, and Empowerment. We reach out to students using pedagogical tools like games, guest lectures, field trips and documentary screenings to form the curriculum for the module. We have till date covered five schools and over 800 children with an overwhelming response. The plan is to reach out to at least 5000 students in the coming year with special emphasis on Antarctica, recycling, waste management and how they can leverage the TERI-Tetra Pak LEADearth platform to make their dream projects a reality. Another project which I am taking up on a personal front will aim at eliminating consumption of plastic in university and college cafeterias by integrating a unique business model that shall enable cafeteria owners to create more profit and reduce at least 1000 tons of plastic going to the landfill in a single year of operations.
How do you think good leadership will help to develop environmentally sustainable businesses of the future?
Good leadership envision companies that work to make money, of course, but how they do so is the key for development of sustainable businesses. These are companies that shall ensure and invest in the future while being aware of the need to care for the biodiversity, ecosystem and water that sustains their business. Sustainability and the quest to achieve it, is transforming the competitive landscape. Good leadership will force the companies to transform the way they think about products, technologies, processes and business models. They shall drive innovation as the key to progress. Making sustainability a goal, they will develop internal competencies that late adopters will find difficult to match giving them a huge advantage in the long run. This competitive advantage shall stand in good stead because sustainability will always be integral to development. While sustainable development should be aligned with making profits, good leaders realize it is not necessarily subordinate to it. While all companies require capital to sustain business, leaders realize that profitability cannot be the only objective; sustainability needs to be made the prerogative for the business to remain profitable in the long run both for the company and society.