Yin Myo Su
Vanguard Award, 2015
When Yin Myo Su – known as ‘Misuu’ – was growing up, foreigners were only permitted to visit Myanmar (known as Burma at the time) for seven days. For nearly 50 years of military rule, the country and its people were isolated from the world outside. It was an era marked by political violence, widespread poverty, and repressive control of information. In 2010 the first signal of changing times came in the form of general elections – the first in 20 years. With a nominally civilian government installed in 2011, the formerly reclusive state has begun the tentative process of developing into a democratic, free and open society.
The country that Misuu cherished as a child – the same country she works to conserve today – is embodied in three aspects: nature, culture and people. For Misuu, this is where the heart of the country lies. As it continues a rapid transformation, Misuu is redoubling her efforts – and her resolve – to preserve her heritage.
As a daughter of political activists, Misuu has always been keenly aware of the needs of her people. In 1995, she saw an opportunity to provide much-needed jobs while also living out her commitment to protect the environment and culture.
Misuu had observed the damage that a young tourism industry was causing fragile ecosystems. She partnered with her family to build the Inle Princess Resort near her home on Inle Lake, an at-risk area already suffering from deforestation, the fast growth of tourism and unhealthy cultivation practices. Together they opened a socially and environmentally responsible hotel that employs local people and grows most of its own vegetables.
When the hotel began to thrive, Misuu wanted to do more for the Inle community. In 2013, Misuu opened the Inle Heritage Hospitality Vocational Training School. The school invests in local people, develops their life skills and leadership, and provides hospitality training to a new generation with a focus on sustainability, local heritage and environmental responsibility.
Misuu also formed the Inthar Heritage House, a community center that preserves the local culture; its Green Practices Center revives traditional farming techniques that once sustained Inle Lake families.
Her business model reflects Misuu’s values entirely; she is running a business that “seeks first to achieve maximum social impact, rather than maximum profit.” Myanmar’s nature, culture and people have always been at the center of her work.
In this time of transition and seemingly limitless opportunity, Misuu wants to use Myanmar’s growth to elevate its people. She sees risk in investment and business models that value the bottom line above all else; and her approach is to establish a distinctly local model of socially responsible business. Her vision for Myanmar is rooted in the culture, values and environment she inherited; Misuu is doing her part to ensure that these ideals are preserved for generations to come. “I don’t want people to lose hope. I want to give hope. If all new businesses in Myanmar have an ethical background, hope will be spread.”