In this episode of Sustainability Ambassadors, hosted at M on the Bund, we speak with Michelle Garnaut, Retauranteur and Social Entrepreneur about her work to build the M Group in China, her work to support the community through a number of initiatives, and finding a balance.
It is an interview that we were certainly inspired by, and we hope that you will be too!
ABOUT Michelle Garnaut
Melbourne-born Michelle Garnaut is a restaurateur and trained cook with a culinary career that spans 25 years, several continents and positions that have ranged from pot-scrubber to waitress to cook to caterer and, finally, proprietor.
After traveling (and cooking) the world, Michelle arrived in Hong Kong in 1984, where she worked in the restaurant business on both sides of the kitchen and then started a catering firm. With very little money, but on the strength of a solid business plan and her reputation as a caterer, she raised the funds to open M at the Fringe in 1989. Located in the historic Ice House, the restaurant became one of the earliest pioneers of independent fine dining in the city.
After a guest chef stint at The Peace Hotel in Shanghai in 1996, Michelle felt that Shanghai was ready for something similar, and took an enormous financial risk to do so. Risking M at the Fringe, she opened M on the Bund in 1999, when the rest of the Bund was a culinary desert, and Shanghai wasn’t yet the global superstar that she is today. M on the Bund was the city’s first independent, international-standard restaurant, and became an instant hit, recouping the initial investment within three years – a remarkable achievement, especially for a business in China.
Michelle has a long-term commitment to the communities in which she works. She is the Hong Kong director of Care for Children, which works in partnership with the PRC government to provide long-term family care to orphaned and disabled children as an alternative to institutional care.
Michelle also encourages active participation by her company and staff in many community projects, and to that end, has sponsored Hong Kong’s International Coastal Clean-up since 2004. Michelle and her team have also worked with the Heep Hong Society, Greenpeace Hong Kong, Amnesty International and the Jane Goodall Foundation, among others.
In 2004, Michelle founded the nonprofit Shanghai International Literary Festival, which has grown into the city’s premier literary event. M on the Bund is the primary sponsor of the Festival, which has featured headliners such as Gore Vidal, Amy Tan, Thomas Keneally and Pico Iyer.
Michelle is a popular speaker, and especially enjoys speaking to organizations involved with the promotion of women in business.
Her achievements: Michelle has been honored with awards that include the Entrepreneur of the Year at the 2003 International Woman of Influence Awards and the Business Entrepreneurial Award from the ANZ Australian Business Awards.
For more stories like Michelle’s, and to learn how to foster similar leaders in your own company, check out our Building a Sustainability Ambassador Network Report.
About Sustainability Ambassador Series
Sustainability Ambassadors is a video series that we hope will not only engage and inspire you, but catalyze you and your organization into action: to identify those with the potential to rise and think outside the box, and build a collaborate community of such people that can help your organization forge new paths of longevity and evolve into something powerful.
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For more insights on Sustainability Ambassadors, and to learn how to foster champions who can take your organization beyond business as usual, check out our Building a Sustainability Ambassador Network Report.
- June 17 – Chitra Hepburn, Senior Strategy Executive, ESG, Sustainability and CSR
- June 24 – Dr. Lu Jianzhong, Partner at Brunswick Group
- July 1 – Sandra Durrant, Director of Responsible Sourcing at Target
- July 8 – Sharon Xiao, APAC Sustainabilty Manager at UPM
- July 15 – Michelle Garnaut, M on The Bund
- July 22 – Yue Cao, Seeking Opportunity in Sustainability
- July 29 – Nitin Dani, Director at Green Initiatives
- August 12 – Raymond Fang, Sustainability Director at APP
- August 26 – Echo Bao, Strategic & Sustainability Program at DSM
- September 2 – Patrick Riley, VP of Global Accounts at Interface
- September 9 – Roy Zhang, Asia Director of Sustainability and CSR at UTC