China Europe International Business School (CEIBS)
Manufacturing and Commercial Services
Dong Mingzhu is a great leader who transformed her company and the entire Chinese air-conditioning industry. Dong joined Gree Electric in 1990 as an air-conditioner salesperson, and was given the least-promising, economically poor region of Anhui to look after. Within 18 months, her district’s sales had broken 2.8 million USD, one-eighth of the company’s annual revenues. Dong thus earned a reputation as marketer extraordinaire. She became the head of sales in 1994, deputy general manager in 1997, general manager in 2001, and chair in 2012.
As leader of the world's largest air-conditioning manufacturing enterprise, Dong plays a key role in driving responsible business practices into her industr. She strives to produce products of the highest quality and energy efficiency. She also actively engages in charity, and she shares her knowledge and experiences by teaching in many Chinese universities as a visiting professor. Her innovations and community spirit have earned her many awards, including No. 4 on Forbes’ ranking of Asia’s Most Powerful Women (2015), Global Messenger of Sustainable Urban Development by United Nations Development Program (2014), No. 3 in Forbes’ ranking of China’s Best CEOs (2013), the 2012 Kaoru Ishikawa Award in ANQ Congress (Asian Network for Quality), and No. 5 in the FT ranking of top 50 women in world business (2010).
Dong Mingzhu is known for her innovative ideas and her courage to challenge the status quo. As a young sales manager she led her team out of a destructive price war by supporting sales dealers and changing the base of competition. As a result, Gree became China’s top producer and seller of air-conditioning units. Furthermore, Dong pushed China’s largest electronics retailers to engage in more responsible business practices. At one point she went so far as to challenge a prominent financial firm for its improper action during a public bidding. Ultimately she established a unique Gree working environment that is fair, open, and transparent for all.
Under Dong’s Leadership, Gree has invested more than 1 billion RMB since 2011 to build five national recycling centers. The centers recycle all types of electronic items into raw materials that can be used for new production. Gree has created many world-leading technologies for energy savings. The company’s latest air conditioner is operated by photovoltaic solar cells and achieves zero grid-energy consumption. This work has moved China’s research on refrigerant technology into the international arena for the first time, earning Gree the 2014 UNDP Award.
Dong personally contributes time and money for education, disaster relief, and economic development. She also encourages community work and contributions among Gree employees. Her contributions to rural education build potential for long-term enhancements to rural literacy and economic development. Her donations include cumulatively 1 million RMB to help build primary schools in three different low income areas. Dong’s business savvy coupled with her tangible efforts to improve the environment and society make her a leader worthy of admiration throughout China and the world.