Peter Dhillon had a choice after graduating from law school: Practise law or work with his mom and dad running the family’s cranberry business. Dhillon picked the family business, Richberry Farms Ltd., lured by his parent’s strong work ethic honed by his father’s previous 24-year career as B.C.'s first Indo-Canadian peace officer.
“For the first couple of years I was wondering if I’d made the right decision,” Dhillon says, thinking back to his days of working side-by-side with his father in a cramped rural office in Richmond, B.C.
With the support and confidence in his abilities to take the family business to the next level, Dhillon grew the business into Canada’s largest cranberry producer, all the while maintaining his values of trust, integrity and a desire to give back to the community.
“I was very fortunate to have a wonderful father as a role model, as a mentor,” says Dhillon of his dad, Rashpal, who died in 2003 at age 64.
It was the huge turnout and outpouring of kind words at his father’s funeral and seeing the respect from the business community that his father had that got Dhillon thinking about the importance of ethics in business, and the legacy he would someday leave behind.
While continuing to grow Richberry into one of largest shareholders and suppliers to Ocean Spray Cranberries, the world’s leading producer of cranberry foods and beverages, Dhillon has been actively giving back to the community.
His latest and largest gift to date is to a partnership with the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia, to establish the Peter P. Dhillon Centre for Business Ethics. The resulting $7.5 million fund will allow Sauder to develop a centre of excellence dedicated to taking a comprehensive approach to the study, teaching and promotion of business ethics.
“The hope is that students come out of their business programs as better people, better citizens and that Sauder over time becomes the world leader on business ethics,” says Dhillon.
His goal through the centre is to create a model that inspires other universities to teach students the value of ethics in business.
“A lot of business leaders are really good people and each and everyday they are faced with very complex issues. It is my belief that the centre will provide the tools that these leaders need to make ethical decisions. That’s my belief and where I want to make a meaningful impact,” says Dhillon, who was appointed chair of Ocean Spray in 2014.
Dhillon’s charitable giving has covered a wide-range of organizations and research that make positive differences in the quality of life of Canadians.
His support for the business ethics centre at Sauder builds on a history of giving to UBC that includes a 2006 gift of $2 million from the Dhillon family toward two initiatives at UBC named in remembrance of Dhillon’s father. The gift established the Rashpal Dhillon Fund in Idiopathic Pulmonary Research and Rashpal Dhillon Track and Field Oval, which opened on the UBC Vancouver campus in 2010.
“I grew up on the idea and the principles of giving back,” says Dhillon, who turns 50 in July. “Why wait until I’m 60 or 70? I can do it now. It’s important for me, as I turn this age, to build a legacy now, to do something that’s meaningful. That is the legacy that I’ve decided I want to build upon.”