AGT Food president awarded international prize by Nobel laureates

Saskatchewan's 'lentil king' is the first Canadian to receive the Oslo Business for Peace Award, an international prize selected by a group of Nobel laureates.

Murad Al-Katib, president of AGT Food, is in good company: The former CEO of Ikea Anders Dahlvig has also won the award, along with Virgin's Richard Branson.

The Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce nominated Al-Katib based on his getting 700 million refugee meals made of Saskatchewan lentils, chickpeas and wheat into the United Nations Syrian refugee program.

"It's an excellent thing that Canadian and Saskatchewan products are contributing to the food security we need," said Al-Katib.

"We recognized that if we could innovate, we could help by bringing a lower cost to their program, which would allow them to feed millions more people."

A sense of social responsibility

You can't get more Saskatchewan than Al-Katib.

He was born to Turkish immigrants in Davidson, Sask. His mother, who went on to become the community's mayor, learned English by watching Sesame Street with her son in the 1960s.

He graduated from the University of Saskatchewan, and runs a food production company that works with farmers across the province.

But when Al-Katib first started his company, he said a farmer mistook him for a newcomer to the province, telling him, "Boy, you speak English well."

It was his family's involvement in the community and mother's perseverance that inspired Al-Katib to run a business with a strong sense of social responsibility. His passion for Saskatchewan is at the heart of his company.

Compassionate entrepreneurism  

Al-Katib said he believes business has an integral role to play in the most complicated societal issues, like pollution control. He calls it "compassionate entrepreneurism."

He put the call out to all businesses to incorporate social responsibility as part of their corporate mandate.

The business for peace award will be presented to Al-Katib in Oslo, Norway, in May.