January 12th, 2016
In July 2015, The Logical Indian lent its full support to a campaign by name #Won’tBuyUnilever and #UnileverPollutes.
To demand a compensation and remedy the toxic poisoning caused in Kodaikanal.
More than a month since the Kodaikanal Won’t viral video turned the spotlight on Unilever’s misdeeds in Kodaikanal,the worldwide attention prompted Unilever CEO Paul Polman to promise speedy resolution of the twin legacies of rehabilitating affected ex-workers and cleaning up the contaminated environment in 2015.
Both issues remained unresolved for a long time and Unilever maintained that it was in talks with the workers. But the absence of any positive news on that front indicated that Unilever was not trying hard enough to offer an acceptable settlement to workers. On the issue of cleaning up the factory site, Unilever was pushing TNPCB to accept its proposal for a substandard clean up. Rather than restore the factory to its original condition, Unilever was proposing a clean up that would leave the “cleaned up” factory site with 250 times more mercury than naturally occurring background levels in that area. The challenge was to put enough pressure on Unilever to amend their actions and quite literally, “clean up their own mess”.
The Logical Indian, Jhatkaa.org and Vettiver Collective joined forces with activists in Chennai to give voice to the struggle of Hindustan Unilever (HUL)’s ex-workers. The Logical Indian shared activist Sofia Ashraf’s music video, “Kodaikanal Won’t” and soon after, it made international waves. And yet, when Unilever did not take significant responsibility or actually remedy the problem, a large scale social media campaign was launched.
Sign the Petition
This was what prompted Kodaikanal to launch the next phase of the campaign where they were asking consumers and supporters to say they #WontBuyUnilever, and to register their protest by visiting jhatkaa.org/WontBuyUnilever or giving a missed call on 08880109020. The Logical Indian fully backed this campaign, and together the campaign reached millions of people.
#WontBuyUnilever selfie campaign
Shortly after, the Logical Indian posted urging the community to do the following: “Send Unilever Global CEO, Paul Polman a clear message that you #WontBuyUnilever by tweeting your selfie at him. Take a piece of paper, write “#WontBuyUnilever” on it and take a selfie with while holding it up. Then log on to www.twitter.com, attach your selfie and paste this tweet: “[email protected] I #WontBuyUnilever till ex-workers are honourably compensated & Kodaikanal is cleaned up via @jhatkaa”
If you don’t use Twitter, please send your selfie to [email protected] as an attachment.”
This campaign too, garnered a lot of support from different parts of the world.
After hundreds of selfies were posted, the petition was signed by lakhs of people and looking at the huge response from the people, other websites and media houses picked up the video and started sharing on their platform. Various celebs from Hollywood like Nicki Minaj, Ashton Kutcher, Mark Ruffalo and others started talking(tweeting) about the Campaign due to which the Unilever came forward to respond to the outrage on social media. This pressurised Unilever enough to lend ears and take necessary action.
The ‘Here and Now’
The settlement between Hindustan Unilever and 591 former mercury workers from its thermometer factory in Kodaikanal is an unprecedented victory and a fitting culmination of the 15-year campaign by workers and the hundreds of thousands of supporters worldwide.
Nityanand Jayaraman, a Chennai-based writer and activist who has been part of the campaign since 2001, says, “After looking at the lame response from the govt and media, we thought of doing a social media campaign #UnileverPollutes with the help of social media portals like The Logical Indian. The kind of attention our campaign got is unprecedented and beyond our expectations. As soon as “Kodaikanal Won’t” was shared on The Logical Indian, it went viral.”
The Face of the #Won’tBuyUnilever campaign, Sofia Ashraf also posted a video thanking the Logical Indian community and all those who supported the campaign by signing the petition.
The Logical Indian and the campaign organisations The Other Media, Chennai Solidarity Group and Jhatkaa.org would like to thank our community members for taking part in the campaign and helping the people of Kodaikanal get justice.