Taking a (tea) leaf out of Dilmah's book


Associate Professor Ken Coghill, Professor Julie Wolfram Cox, Head of the Department of Management, Associate Professor Ramanie Samaratunge, Mr Merrill Fernando and his son Mr Dilhan Fernando.

The founder and chairman of Dilmah Tea, Mr Merrill J. Fernando, and his son Mr Dilhan Fernando, Director of Dilmah Tea, presented a seminar on ethical business practices at Monash .

In the lead-up to an important research partnership with Dilmah Tea, Mr Fernando and his son were invited by Associate Professor Ramanie Samaratunge from the Department of Management as guest speakers at a seminar organised by the Governance, Leadership and Organisation Discipline Group in the department.

Mr Merrill Fernando started Dilmah Tea, named after his two sons, Malik and Dilhan, in 1988 in Sri Lanka with the aim of stopping the exploitation of Sri Lanka’s tea crop by big traders. Since then, Dilmah Tea has grown into a renowned company that ranks among the top 10 tea brands in the world.

“The uniqueness and success of Dilmah can be attributed to the passionate commitment of the Fernando family and the Dilmah team towards maintaining quality and authenticity in tea and the company’s philosophy that goes beyond commerce in seeing business as a matter of human service,” Mr Fernando said.

Mr Fernando firmly believes in making business a matter of human service. True to this belief, Dilmah Tea has established the MJF Charitable Foundation, which handles the 100-plus humanitarian assistance programs of the company, and Dilmah Conservation, which works towards environmental sustainability.

“We are building an important research partnership with this prominent organisation and we were honoured to have their founder and director as our guests and to learn from them, especially on how they see 'business as a matter of human service', Associate Professor Ramanie Samaratunge said.

Mr Fernando and his son explained why and how Dilmah addressed these humanitarian and environmental sustainable issues by developing management practices, business assessments and methodologies at Dilmah that catered to creating ‘honest’ tea. In his desire to offer authenticity, he pioneered the concepts of single origin tea, and packing tea garden fresh, at source.

These initiatives were not easy for Mr Fernando. He struggled against much bigger corporations, and came into conflict with peers and government who did not share his belief that tea could be picked, packed and shipped direct from origin by growers themselves.