Meet The Tribe: May Mei
Meet the Tribe is an eight-part series introducing some of the industry leaders across Asia who helped us select the Gen.T List 2019—a panel of experts we call The Tatler Tribe. May Mei is a member of The Tribe in China, representing the Philanthropy & Charity category.
May Mei began her career in the media, working for the likes of CCTV and Hunan Satellite TV as a producer and director. When she was approached by WildAid to launch their China office and leverage her media background to engage people over the issues of endangered species in China, she really felt she could make a difference.
For 12 years she drove the environmental organisation’s development in China, working with high-profile celebrities and leading Chinese officials on game-changing campaigns, the most significant of which highlighted the issues around eating shark fin soup and led to a steep decline in its consumption.
In 2016, Mei was awarded the Climate Breakthrough Award and founded her own NGO dedicated to encouraging more sustainable lifestyle choices among people in China. Ahead of the launch of the Gen.T List, we spoke to the environmentalist about the potential of the Gen.T honourees to contribute to positive environmental change.
How did you come to found your organisation?
While I was working at WildAid I was encouraged to take part in the Climate Breakthrough Project competition, which seeks to fund promising leaders in the climate space. I was lucky to be awarded first prize in 2016 and founded my NGO, GoalBlue, which focuses on environmental issues. We try to influence consumer behaviour with a goal of being more sustainable, whether that’s through smart eating, clean commuting or ocean conservation.
What are your proudest accomplishments to date?
Starting my own organisation was really challenging, but over the last three years we have received recognition in the China market. We have 20 million people who follow our Meatless Happiness topic on Weibo at the moment, which promotes going meatless once a week. That’s data we are really proud of.
On a personal level, I am proud of my son, who is 12 years old. Last year, after developing an understanding of what I do, he started a campaign with his school friends to stop using plastic straws. I was so happy to see that.
Are you optimistic about China dealing with environmental issues?
There is a great willingness in China, particularly among millennials, to change their behaviour in order to save the environment. As long as we can supply good ideas, lead the way and encourage people, I believe they will change–and quickly, too.
There is a great willingness in China, particularly among millennials, to change their behaviour in order to save the environment
— May Mei
How did you find the process of nominating names for the Gen.T List?
I had a lot of people to choose from. I encounter a lot of young, ambitious and interesting people, particularly from the field I work in.
What impressed you in the process of nominating names for the Gen.T List?
A lot of people are very innovative and I’m happy and proud to see that. We often say that a Chinese education can stop kids being creative, but I have seen a lot of creativity.
What's the value of a platform like Gen.T in China?
In China we have 400 million millennials. They are the future. If they decide to do something, society will change fast. Gen.T not only gathers together a great group of people who can support each other but it can also communicate with the millennial market and promote important ideas and guide change. The future is theirs; it’s time for them to take charge.
What are the most important traits in the leaders of the future?
To be open-minded, to be confident in their beliefs and push them through, and to be caring, not just for themselves, but for others, their families and the environment.
If a person is capable, it doesn’t matter what job they take, they are always outstanding
— May Mei
Do you feel a responsibility to be a mentor to the next generation?
I do. I want to share the lessons I have learnt in my career and the things that could be beneficial for the next generation.
What's the best advice you have ever received?
The best advice I ever received was from my mum, who I would probably consider my mentor. She always said that if a person is capable, it doesn’t matter what job they take, they are always outstanding. I have changed my career a lot, from TV to film to non-profit, and whenever I change I always remember what my mum said–if I am capable I can do the job.
What advice do you have for Gen.T honourees?
Focus. It sometimes feels like the young generation has a very short attention span. I would advise them to make longer-term goals and focus on achieving them.