On January 28, 2008 the Founder and Chairman of MJF Group of Companies (Dilmah Tea), Mr. Merrill J. Fernando, its Marketing Director, Mr. Dilhan Fernando and a team from Dilmah visited IUCN Headquarters in Gland, Switzerland.
They were met by the Director General of IUCN, Ms. Julia Marton-Lefevre, Deputy Director General, Dr. William Jackson, Mr. Mohammed Rafiq, Head, Business and Biodiversity Programme, Shiranee Yasaratne, IUCN’s Country Representative in Sri Lanka and other senior staff of the organization.
The Dilmah Group is one of the world’s largest non-alcoholic beverages companies, and is active in production, processing and marketing of tea as its core business. The MJF Charitable Foundation, an NGO and recognized Charity, works with underprivileged persons in Sri Lanka.
IUCN Sri Lanka entered into a partnership with the MJF Group in 2003. This resulted in a Memorandum of Understanding between the two organisations on agreed work streams: Ecosystems and Livelihoods, Gender and Environment and Species Conservation - supporting IUCN’s efforts of conserving threatened and endangered species emerging from the Red Listing Process. As a consequence of this partnership, IUCN has been successful in facilitating the establishment of Dilmah Conservation – the first conservation arm of a private sector corporate entity.
The Dilmah team discussed experiences gained in Sri lanka on integrating an environmental dimension to is work and expressed hope that the partnership could be expanded to a global level. Mr Merril Fernando stated that he was very happy with the association between his organisation and IUCN and was appreciative of the collaborative work done. The Director General of IUCN appreciated the efforts of Dilmah Conservation and the MJF Foundation in supporting and nurturing its Business and Biodiversity Programme in Asia and stated that the innovative initiatives and results of the partnership will be show cased in IUCN’s work worldwide.
Mr. Merrill J. Fernando’s efforts were recognised by IUCN for the positive contribution his company has made in integrating environment and livelihoods enhancement for the betterment of communities dependent on natural resources and for the pioneering work carried out, recognising the need and opportunities for mainstreaming and integrating environmental aspects in businesses.