An Overflowing Cup of Kindness


New Zealand’s number one black tea maker does a power of good for people and the environment.

Merrill J. Fernando of Dilmah Tea prefers to just do it – and not talk about it.

However, New Zealand now has a view of the true extent of Mr Fernando’s philanthropy with the publication of the Dilmah Purpose Report.

The report details Dilmah’s commitments to and membership of many international organisations, including the United Nations Global Compact Network, International Union for Conservation of Nature, and its successful drive for its companies to be carbon neutral.

It also profiles initiatives in areas from education, health and enabling people living with disabilities to encouraging entrepreneurs and helping lead Sri Lanka’s conservation efforts and response to climate change.

“We come into this world with nothing, we leave with nothing. The wealth some of us acquire is owed to the efforts and cooperation of many others around us. Let us, therefore, share that wealth, while we are still around, so that the goodwill and contentment created thereby may make our world a happier place for others too,” says Fernando.

At the heart of everything Dilmah does is the philosophy Mr Fernando started the company in 1988: “business is a matter of human service”.  

Drinkers of Dilmah teas indirectly become part of helping that effort, with millions of dollars from Dilmah being distributed by the Merrill J. Fernando (MJF) Charitable Foundation every year.  

Hospice New Zealand is a beneficiary, receiving free teabags for all hospices for the past 20 years.

That might be why Dilmah has been voted by Kiwis as the “Most Trusted” tea brand for six years in a row in the Readers Digest Trusted Brands Awards.

One of the stories in the report is about Dilmah helping a baby elephant at the Elephant Transit Home, in Udawalawe.

With former All Black coach Sir Graham Henry’s permission it was given his nick-name “Ted”.  

After eight years, Ted was released back to the wild last year, but not before Sir Graham and Lady Raewyn had visited and helped with rugby coaching and the work of the MJF Foundation.

Another story is about the ‘Life through Cricket’ programme, set up by the MJF Foundation with New Zealand’s Cricket Live Foundation (CLF). First proposed by New Zealander Alex Reese, CLF guides and encourages children through a holistic development programme that integrates life skills into sports training regimes.

Then there is the Curtiss Institute of Design in Sri Lanka, which for the past seven years has given access to e-learning and basic IT skills to marginalised youth and people from across the spectrum of age and ability.

Named after advertising executive Daron Curtiss, few Kiwis realise he was the man that coined the phrase Merrill J Fernando says around the world: “Do try it”.

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