Sun Lili

Lili SUN

Founder and Deputy Board Chairwoman, Mangrove Conservation Foundation


Lili SUN stands as a prominent figure in environmental conservation and philanthropy, renowned for her exceptional contributions to sustainability and the protection of natural ecosystems. Serving as a Life Member and the 8th President of the Society of Entrepreneurs & Ecology (SEE), she has been at the forefront of advancing environmental causes in China and beyond.

With a passion for environmental stewardship, Ms. SUN has dedicated herself to various initiatives aimed at preserving wetlands and promoting ecological awareness. She is the Founder and Deputy Board Chairwoman of the Mangrove Conservation Foundation (MCF), where she plays a pivotal role in driving initiatives for wetlands conservation. Under her leadership, MCF has emerged as the first environmental non-profit organization entrusted with managing an urban ecological park in China.

Moreover, Ms. SUN's commitment to environmental protection extends beyond her role at MCF. She is also the Director of the Futian Mangrove Ecological Park, where she actively promotes public participation in conservation efforts. Her vision emphasizes the importance of social engagement and environmental education in fostering a sustainable future.

Recognized for her exemplary leadership and contributions, Lili SUN has received numerous accolades and honors. She serves as an Executive Board member of the National Federation of Industry and Commerce and is a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in Shenzhen. Additionally, she holds positions such as Vice Chair of the Female Entrepreneurs’ Association of Shenzhen and Chair of the Environmental Protection Committee of Shenzhen Non-Governmental Organization Federation.

Lili SUN's dedication to environmental causes is evident in her extensive charity footprint, which spans over 600 thousand kilometers of flight range. Her financial contributions exceeding over 50 million yuan have enabled significant progress in conservation efforts, while her efforts in mobilizing over 100 thousand volunteers for wetland protection demonstrate her ability to inspire collective action.

Looking ahead, Lili SUN remains committed to advancing environmental protection and promoting public awareness. Through partnerships with government agencies and educational initiatives, she seeks to empower communities to actively participate in environmental conservation. Her unwavering dedication and practical approach have made her a respected leader in the field, driving positive change for the environment and society as a whole.

Questions and Answers

What personal experience has shaped or inspired your journey?

In 2009, I was invited by Mr. Wang Shi, who is the Founding Board Chair of MCF, Chairman of Vanke Foundation and President of SEE Conservation (2nd Session), to attend a dinner party for entrepreneurs, where many outstanding representatives of Chinese entrepreneurs, including Ma Weihua (Former Executive Director and CEO of China Merchants Bank Co., Ltd, also the Founding Board Chair of MCF), Wang Shi attended. But it was strange at the scene that everyone was not talking about business, but rather fiercely discussing the awakening of entrepreneurs and social responsibility. It was there, that I gained a preliminary understanding of environmental protection, and also met the earliest group of entrepreneurs who paid attention to environmental protection. Then I joined the SEE Conservation, an association focusing on environmental protection established by Chinese entrepreneurs, and began to devote myself to environmental protection. Later on, I participated as one of the founders in the establishment of the Mangrove Conservation Foundation (MCF). And to better manage the foundation, I later volunteered as the Secretary General of MCF, which made me gradually turn environmental protection and philanthropy into my career pursuit.

Who is the influential figure who has inspired your actions, and what specifically about them has been motivating?

First and foremost is Mr. Wang Shi. We are both entrepreneurs in Shenzhen, China, and have a lot of communication. He is not only the mentor leader who led me on the path of environmental protection, but also a pioneer in the field among Chinese entrepreneurs, constantly inspiring me to move forward.

Next is Mr. Richard Louv, the author of the book Last Child in the Woods. After I embarked on the path of charity, this book gave me great inspiration and influence. It makes me realize that many valuable studies on nature education have been conducted and effective ways are explored overseas, which has directly sparked my interest in the area of nature education.

The last honorary Chairwoman of Rare, Mrs. Wendy Paulson, wife of the former US Treasury Secretary Henry Merritt Paulson. She came to Shenzhen in 2017 and I accompanied her on bird watching. When I found out that she knew thousands of birds, I was deeply shocked for I just knew little about birds. Since then, she became a role model for me to learn bird knowledge, which helped me realize that bird conservation is not about one place but the whole route for them migrating. This has also prompted MCF to join EAAFP and participate in global environmental governance.

In your conservation efforts for wetlands, what key challenges did you face and how has this experience fuelled your dedication to making a positive impact?  

I have mainly faced two challenges. One is professionalism. I entered this field as an entrepreneur without prior expertise in ecological systems. My identity as an entrepreneur was not trustworthy for either the partners or government departments when opportunities for cooperation were discussed.  This inspired and led me to pursue a doctoral degree in wetland conservation as well as to build a professional team for the MCF.

The second is to promote widespread social participation, including from the government and public. This requires great effort and persistence. When we first reached out to one governmental department to discuss operating the local nature reserve under the government management and referencing the model of Mai Po Nature Reserve in Hong Kong. In the beginning, we were politely rejected for the lack of professionalism. As our professionalism continues to improve, and various exchange activities are carried out between Shenzhen and HK, MCF, ultimately we obtained permission to manage the Futian Mangrove Ecological Park under the supervision of the government in 2015.

Obtaining public support is also significant. In 2016, we were unexpectedly reported to the local media by the public when it was discovered that the fishponds in the Futian Mangrove Nature Reserve were reconstructed for the high-tide roosting area to benefit migratory birds. We realized that the public in Shenzhen has high environmental protection awareness and this encouraged us to invest in public education by using CEPA tools for nearby residents to know about our work.

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