AIB Featured Business Leader – Mina Guli
Australian businesswoman Mina Guli is described as an “athlete, adventurer, entrepreneur and change-maker”. As the CEO of Thirst, an organisational initiative of the Young Global Leaders of the World Economic Forum, she has achieved immense results for the environment, particularly in water conservation. Her journey in business is not motivated by profit and self-gain, but instead by making a tangible difference in the world.
Reading Guli’s story, you can’t help but to think that she has to be the most motivated and persistent person there is in the world. In an attempt to raise awareness for Thirst, she completed a physical challenge that many could only dream of – running seven marathons across seven continents. The challenge saw her finish some days at 1am, starting it all again at 6am. She said, “There were days when I was tired and really wanted to sleep in. I didn’t do it because this issue about water is much bigger than me having a lie in. There’s plenty of time for that, but first we have to fix the problem. Lying in bed is not going to achieve that.”
Guli’s background is rather academic, with Bachelors in Law and Science, a Master in Law and a qualification in Global Leadership and Public Policy in the 21st Century. During her Bachelor at Monash University, she got a taste for changing the world through education. She ran Monash’s Junior University Program – a program designed to show year 11 students the value of a degree. She was active in student societies and other educational programs, developing her passion for creating positive change.
Upon graduation, Guli worked as a lawyer in Melbourne and was involved in privatisation and infrastructure investment. She then moved to the Sydney Futures Exchange, followed by law firm Baker McKenzie where she focused on climate change. Guli’s career quickly became international after she was asked to join the World Bank, where she developed the first carbon projects in China, India, Nepal and Indonesia, followed by a stint in a boutique London climate change investment fund.
Following a successful 15 years in the above roles as a leader in climate change, Guli co-founded Peony Capital, a company that provides capital and knowledge to Chinese companies to help them mitigate their impact on the environment. Together with co-founder Tim Clissold, Peony’s offices were established in Beijing, where they developed some of the world’s largest carbon projects, in collaboration with influential Chinese organisations. From there, things just continued to grow when Thirst was established in 2012.
Thirst prides itself on harnessing social media and technology to inspire and inform young adults about water and the steps they can take to reduce their own water consumption. Since its launch, the company has trended number one on Chinese Twitter, educated almost 100,000 students in China, and reached over 250 million people with its messages. Guli told Red Bull that one of the key messages that Thirst tries to deliver is on the concept of ‘invisible water’. She said, “some 95 per cent of water we use every day is not in taps or showers, it’s used to create the things we consume”.
What’s most fascinating about Mina Guli is not just her inspiring ambition to make a difference in the world’s water consumption – it’s how she leads Thirst in such a unique way. When Guli completed the marathons in early 2016, all in the name of raising awareness about water, CEOs around the world took their hats off to her. It’s not every day that you see a CEO so passionate about their cause, so when Guli completed the challenge on March 22 (World Water Day 2016), it sent a very powerful message. She wanted to spread the word about the true urgency of the water crisis, and with huge media coverage and countless relationships made along the way, it’s safe to say she’s done a great job.
What do you think?
Aside from being an activist for her brand and message, Guli was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2010. She’s a recipient of a Future Leadership Award from the Australia Davos Connection, and was named one of Australia’s 100 most influential women. It’s clear she’s made her mark not only as a leader in climate change, but as a fantastic CEO. I’m interested to learn though, what do you admire most about her career?
This article was written by Laura Hutton on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB. The following sources have been used to prepare this article: Mina Guli, Wikipedia, Red Bull, Thirst
Image Credit: The Daily Mail