Meet 10 of the Young Global Leaders creating a sustainable future

A view of Earth from the International Space Station, April 2017

This year's Young Global Leaders will meet to discuss how to drive a sustainable future for the whole planet. Image: NASA/Reid Wiseman

John Dutton
Head, Uplink; Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum
Silje Ditlefsen Zanni
UpLink Programme and Impact Lead, World Economic Forum
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We are at a crossroads in history. The decisions made today are going to have lasting implications for the trajectory and milestones we can achieve by 2020, 2030 or even 2050.

Co-hosted by Mark Benioff, Marissa Mayer and Zachary Bogue, the 2018 Young Global Leaders (YGL) Annual Summit brings over 600 participants to San Francisco and the Bay Area. From 15 to 18 October, YGLs will be challenged to explore the policy and practical adaptations required to thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution and drive a sustainable future.

This summit will bring together YGLs around three thematic pillars:

1. Unpacking productivity – New technologies have decreased workforces by 75% in some sectors over the last three decades, while trends like climate change, as well as structural economic shifts, are reshaping business landscapes. We need a new economic approach that prioritizes efficiency and utility, yet still produces positive outcomes for people, planet and profit.

2. Sustaining dynamic and smart societies – With the global population expected to rise to 9.6 billion by 2050, we must embrace technology to accommodate bigger cities and new social dynamics. Innovative responses, bold actions and creative solutions are needed to build resilient societies equipped to adapt to changing realities.

3. A future for all – Past industrial revolutions have resulted in severe inequality: today, eight men own the same wealth as half the world’s population. Could the Fourth Industrial Revolution be the first industrial revolution that tackles inequality at scale? We have the technological capacity, but we need the right regulatory mechanisms.

With generosity of spirit, a will to collaborate and a wish to do more and to effect change, our YGLs are capitalizing on their diverse talents, experiences and networks to achieve more together than they could separately; we need more collective leadership to ensure sustainability and systemic change across sectors and borders.


Here are some of the YGLs leading the way.

Iyinoluwa Aboyeji

With the mission to power a new wave of prosperity across Africa, Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, the chief executive and co-founder of Flutterwave, is enabling global digital payments on a continent that has been largely cut off from the digital economy, and is creating the infrastructure to power Africa’s growth in the 21st century. Since its inception Flutterwave has processed close to $2 billion in payments across 30 million transactions in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and South Africa.

Tom Szaky

At the system’s change level, there are few with bigger ambitions than Tom Szaky. He is the chief executive officer of TerraCycle, a global leader in the collection and recycling of post-consumer waste that typically ends up in landfill. He has developed a unique business model that offers free recycling programmes funded by brands, manufacturers, and retailers around the world. By creating turnkey and affordable recycling options, TerraCycle enables these parties to move from a linear to a circular economy.

Rana El Kaliouby

A pioneer of industry who is spearheading digital applications of emotion-sensing and facial coding, Rana El Kaliouby is the Egyptian chief executive of Affectiva, an emotion AI company that is ensuring that humans stay at the centre of the development of AI technology. Her work adds empathy to the equation, encouraging all of us to leverage technology to analyse human emotions while also arguing that the ethical implications of AI can and should rest in the hands of humans who are developing this technology.

William Marshall

Co-founder and chief executive of Planet, William Marshall has pioneered breakthrough spacecraft technology and operates the largest constellation of remote-sensing satellites in history, aimed at helping humanity monitor our changing planet. He will be welcoming a group of YGLs to his lab to see how their company is leveraging the most advanced data imaging of the planet to support policy makers and business leaders tackle key planetary issues such as climate change.

Nina Jensen

We hear a lot of talk about protecting the oceans, but Nina Jensen is taking real action. She is the chief executive of REV Ocean, which is currently constructing the world’s largest research and expedition vessel. This ship will house 60 researchers at any given time and promises to uncover sustainable and environmentally responsible solutions for the world's oceans. With a background of 15 years at the World Wildlife Fund, Nina has a burning commitment and passion for oceans, conservation and finding the specific solutions oceans need to thrive.

Sam Kass

Sam Kass is a food entrepreneur, senior policy advisor for nutrition and celebrated former White House chef who is on a mission to reduce childhood obesity to just 5% by 2030. Sam is focusing on the intersection of health, climate change and food systems in numerous ways through strategy work and investing in the US.

Gloria Fluxa Thienemann

Gloria Fluxa Thienemann is changing the impact of seaside tourism. As the chief executive of one of Europe’s most prominent hospitality companies, Iberostar, she directly influences more than 110 hotels in 35 countries. More than 80% of these hotels are coastal. Through Gloria’s initiative, Wave of Change, Iberostar has developed an action plan to preserve and promote our oceans and seas. This includes replacing single-use plastics with products made from biodegradable materials, ensuring the traceability of the fish on the hotel menus and funding research into coral reef conservation.

Miroslava Duma

One of Eurasia’s most influential fashion entrepreneurs and investors, Miroslava Duma, connects and develops cutting-edge technologies and sustainable innovations with the aim of transforming the fashion industry. She founded Future Tech Lab, a disruptive movement of innovators bridging together fashion and science to create a sustainable future.

Drue Kataoka

Drue Kataoka is a technology artist known for creating interactive and engaging artworks/experiences with significant social impact using cutting edge technologies, like virtual reality & steel fabrication. Only 24 hours after its creation, Drue’s portrait of British MP and humanitarian Jo Cox flooded social media, newswires and TV. Drue’s posters were carried by tens of thousands of people as a symbol of our shared humanity.


Drue and Miroslava are collaborating to build #Ambrosia 2030, a multi-faceted, interactive art installation sparking a global conversation about sustainability at the summit. It is designed to invite reflection on the urgency of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and bringing brings virtual realityart and fashion sustainability together.

 Drue Kataokas' iconic portrait of the murdered British MP, Jo Cox
Drue Kataokas' iconic portrait of the murdered British MP, Jo Cox Image: Drue Kataoka

Wai Wai Nu

From a political prisoner to a peace and anti-discrimination activist, Wai Wai Nu is working to reduce discrimination and hatred among Buddhist and Muslim communities and to improve the human rights of the Rohingya people. Wai Wai was imprisoned by the Burmese military government for seven years. In 2012 she was released under presidential amnesty and founded the Women’s Peace Network, a platform to build peace and mutual understanding between Myanmar’s different ethnicities, and to empower and advocate for the rights of marginalized women in Arakan and Myanmar.

These are just some of the stories of this year’s Young Global Leaders - a sought-after peer network, driving each other to do more and be more. From being challenged at leading universities to engaging with innovative peers and influencers, YGLs are transforming how we define leadership and inspire impact.

Follow the official hashtag #YGLSummit on social media to learn more about the leaders who are coming together to create sustainable change.

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