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Honouree Profile: Zahi Khouri


Small bottles, big dreams
Here’s a question – Where should you go if you want to see the biggest Coke bottle in the world? The Coca Cola Company’s headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia? Not quite. In fact, the sculpture is found more than 10.350 kilometers away, on the roof of the soft drink giant’s Ramallah headquarters. Impressive though it might be, to see the bottle merely as a symbol of Coca Cola’s international reach would be a mistake. Rather, the bottle should be seen as a super-sized testimony to the success of Mr. Zahi Khouri, the founder of the Palestinian National Beverage Company (NBC).

Having fled Palestine with his family in 1948, Mr. Khouri returned to his native country as a successful businessman in 1991, eager to create jobs and attract investments. Hoping to kickstart a new Palestinian economy, Mr. Khouri co-founded the Palestinian Development and Investment Company (PADICO) shortly after the signing of the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords. In 1998, in close co-operation with the Coca Cola Company, Mr.Khouri founded the NBC, becoming the multinational’s official franchise in Gaza and the West Bank.

Since its inception, the NBC has operated with a strong sense of corporate social responsibility. Having grown steadily since 1998, the company now operates four bottling facilities in the Palestinian territories, creating thousands of jobs. While boosting the local economy, numerous charities have also been created as extensions of NBC’s operation. As a staunch believer in the importance of human capital, Mr. Khouri set out early to work with Palestinians under 24, a demographic strata that in 2009 made up 55.4 % of the population. Funding a wide array of programs, Mr. Khouri today supports local sports teams, library-programs in public hospitals, waste water treatment plants, tech start-up funds, scholarship schemes for female students, and numerous other charities.

As an activist for the Palestinian cause on the international arena, Mr. Khouri remains hard at work creating growth in the local economy, all while leading by example when it comes to stressing the importance of intelligent investment in the most important asset of any community – its human capital.

In recognition of remarkable philanthropic work and achievements in sustainable business, Mr. Zahi Khouri is awarded the 2015 Business for Peace award.

Thank you for being a part of 2015 Oslo Business for Peace Summit!


Dear participants, partners, supporters and audience of the 2015 Oslo Business for Peace Summit. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you for your contribution to a truly inspirational and uplifting experience in the name of beeing Businessworthy.

Our deepest gratitude and admiration goes out to the Oslo Business for Peace 2015 Honourees. Please check back to our webpage soon, as we will shorty update the page with pictures, videos and reports from the summit and Award Ceremony.

In the meantime, to learn more about the 2015 Honourees, and the Oslo Business for Peace Foundation, please follow us at @businessworthy and

If you want to share your Oslo Business for Peace Summit experience, or give any feedback to the organizers and the Foundation, do not hesitate to get in contact with us at – we welcome any feedback.

Sincerely – The Business for Peace Foundation

2015 Oslo Business for Peace Honourees

Meet the Winners: Merrill Joseph Fernando

Fernando_When Merrill Joseph Fernando was born in 1930, he was a colonial subject of the British Empire. His homeland, the island of Ceylon, produced rubber, cinnamon, and Ceylon tea. Tea production was under the control of the British who had established large plantations and controlled the process, from planting to packaging to store shelves.

Although Fernando had considered law school, he began work in the tea trade. He was among the first group of Ceylonese to go to London to study tea tasting, a profession then dominated by British expatriates. In London, he began to realize that the finished product was more financially beneficial to the European corporations than the workers in the now-independent Ceylon who were handpicking and producing tea in the traditional manner.

In 1962, Fernando established his own bulk-tea export business, Merrill J. Fernando & Company, becoming the first exporter to ship Ceylon tea to the former Soviet Union, and establishing a strong relationship with buyers in Australia. The 1960s were a period of consolidation and commodification as large multinational companies forced many family-owned businesses to sell or go bankrupt. Discounting and cheaper prices had turned Ceylon tea into a commodity.

“The mixing of tea (blending) worried me at the time,” Fernando told the Sri Lanka Sunday Times in 2013. ”Ceylon Tea at the time had 30-40 percent of non-Ceylon origin tea … it occurred to me that eventually foreign packers would drop Ceylon Tea altogether or use just a little bit.”

In 1971, Fernando bought his first tea plantation and the following year, Ceylon was officially renamed Sri Lanka. By 1988, he was finally ready to produce his own, single-blend tea. He was determined to change the exploitation of his country’s crop by the multi-nationals and began offering, as the Dilmah website describes, “producer-owned, garden-fresh, unblended, and ethically produced single origin tea.”

Fernando named his tea Dilmah, after his two sons. The success of Dilmah in the Soviet Union, Australia, and New Zealand meant that there was a market for specialty teas whose production was based on very high quality and a commitment to ethical production.

His mother often told him, he said, that if he were successful, it was his obligation to share those benefits with his workers and the less privileged in his community. At the heart of Dilmah, Fernando says, is the commitment to making business a matter of human service.

A tenth of the profits made by the Dilmah tea companies are directed towards community and social uplift programs carried out by the MJF Charitable Foundation. Among its many activities, the Foundation has awarded scholarships to students from the tea plantations, provided assistance to families and war widows in northern and eastern Sri Lanka, and provided differently abled children with education, therapy, and training. Foundation resources are now shared and used for environmental conservation efforts carried out by Dilmah Conservation.

In 2010, Fernando, the Dilmah family, and its partners issued a declaration which states:“We have pioneered a comprehensive commitment to minimizing our impact on the planet, fostering respect for the environment and ensuring its protection by encouraging a harmonious coexistence of man and nature. We believe that conservation is ultimately about people and the future of the human race, that efforts in conservation have associated human well-being and poverty reduction outcomes. These core values allow us to meet and exceed our customers’ expectations of sustainability.”

Meet the Winners: Zahi Khouri


Khouri_Zahi Khouri’s peaceful childhood ended abruptly when he was ten years old. Born in Jaffa, Palestine, his family joined thousands of other Palestinians a decade later as they were driven into exile in 1948. The family settled in Lebanon; Khouri pursued his education in Germany and France.

After moving to Richmond, Virginia, in 1967, he worked for various multinational corporations in New York City, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia. Then in 1993, Oslo Peace Accords were signed. The agreement, brokered by Norway after secret negotiations between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, included mutual recognition of each entity and the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, with limited self-governance of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Encouraged by the Accords, Khouri joined with several partners to create businesses in the West Bank and Gaza. They formed the Palestinian Development and Investment Company (PADICO), the largest Palestinian investment company in Palestine, and set up PalTel, the Palestinian Telecommunication Group.

In 1995, Khouri and his partners entered into an international venture, in partnership with the Coca-Cola Company, founding the Palestinian National Beverage Company, holder of the Coke franchise for the West Bank and Gaza. “For me, it wasn’t about money. Coke could put Palestine on the map,” Khouri told the Institute for Middle East Understanding in 2013.

The beverage company has undertaken many corporate social responsibility projects, including building libraries for children in Palestinian hospitals in Ramallah, Gaza, and Nablus; two wastewater treatment units, and creating a Back to School campaign for impoverished children across Palestine.

This year, the Palestinian National Beverage Company plans to build its first factory in Gaza. Khouri discussed the Gaza venture last fall in a Jerusalem Post interview: “This is something that’s extremely important if we want to talk about peace and coexistence. It’s about where business can contribute to peace – don’t talk to me about the word process, I mean actual peace – by creating jobs and facilitating the life of the private sector,” he said, adding, “The only enemy of extremism is good jobs.”

Khouri’s commitment to peace led him to establish the Zahi Khouri Fellowship Program, in partnership with Tomorrow’s Youth Organization, an American-based organization working to enable Palestinians of all ages living in disadvantaged areas of the Middle East to become healthy, active, and responsible family and community members.

The Khouri Fellowship Program places Palestinian-American students and graduates in the most underprivileged areas of Nablus, offering them the experience of professional development in education, youth/female empowerment, and economic development. Fellowship projects have included educational programming for women and children, professional competency courses at An-Najah National University, and working with in the Fostering Women Entrepreneurs in Nablus and in Lebanon programs.

Khouri also serves as Chairman of the Palestine International Business Forum (PIBF), the Carter Advisory body in Palestine, and chairs the largest Palestinian NGO, the NGO Development Center in association with the World Bank.

He remains committed to building businesses and encouraging entrepreneurs, and building peace. He put it succinctly in 2013: “The best engine driving peace, stability, and growth is a healthy business environment.”

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