Sri Lankan family tea company Dilmah was honoured in Sri Lanka’s apex corporate sustainability awards, as one of two recipients of the Best Corporate Citizen Sustainability Award for Sri Lanka in 2020. Dilmah won in the category of Businesses with Less than Rs. 15 Billion Annual Turnover based on complex criteria linked to social, environmental and economic value, compliance, resilience, stakeholder management and crisis response. The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce award is judged annually – now in its 17th year – in an exhaustive process steered by a panel of eminent judges. The Best Corporate Citizen in the category of Businesses with greater than Rs. 15 Billion Annual Turnover was won by Ceylon Biscuits Ltd, also a Sri Lankan family business.

In addition to the coveted top award, Dilmah won category awards for Customer Relations, Environment Beyond the Business and was chosen as one of the Top 10 Corporate Citizens of Sri Lanka. The company stands out in its achievement as a family owned business with a singular focus on tea, among conglomerates and finance houses that form the top 10. 

Dilmah was formed by Founder, Dr. Merrill J. Fernando, on an unequivocal commitment to human service. The context was the colonial economic system that persisted in the tea industry in the 1950s, vestiges of which are evident even today in inadequate value addition to Sri Lanka’s high-quality tea and spices. The award scrutinised each finalists’ performance in areas including sustainability and business resilience in the wake of COVID-19, packaging sustainability, customer relations, commitment to environment and social development initiatives. 

Merrill J. Fernando, who recently celebrated his 70th year in tea is recognized as the face of fine Ceylon Tea in several countries where he started his business inviting tea drinkers to, ‘do try it!’ He commented on hearing of the accolade, ‘Mine was a simple wish – to present the finest tea with quality and integrity. What people call sustainability is a way of life for my sons and I. This award is a humbling accolade, because my journey in tea was marked more by criticism than appreciation.’  

A family business firmly operated on family values, Dilmah maintains an uncompromising commitment to its founding principles of Taste, natural Goodness and ethical Purpose. These values influence every facet of the business from sustainable packaging to its impact on the environment and community. A minimum 15% of the company’s pre-tax profits directly benefit humanity through the work of the MJF Charitable Foundation and Dilmah Conservation, both formed to fulfill the company’s commitment to community and environment. The Dilmah philosophy has touched the lives of thousands through programmes for disabled children, empowerment initiatives for women, youth and communities. The company became carbon neutral in 2019 and plans to be carbon negative by 2030.

This article was also published in The Island

This article was also published in The Sunday Times

This article was also published in the Daily News

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