Power Of Social Media: After 15 Years, Unilever Bows To Pressure, Compensates Workers
Image: Reuters/Danish Siddiqui
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.
Kodaikanal is the place where unilever dumped it toxic waste and people of that region are suffering from it. Though the fight was for the people and their rights, the victims didn’t get any help from the local as well as traditional media.
“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.” said Nityanand Jayaraman, a Chennai-based writer and activist who has been part of the campaign since 2001.
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 Minaz, Aston 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.
Unilever is insisting on leaving up to 25 milligrams/kg of mercury in soil – 250 times higher than naturally occurring background levels — even after clean-up. According to activists, that is far laxer than global standards and will harm the environment. The factory is located on a ridge surrounded by the densely forested Kodaikanal Wildlife Sanctuary.
In the United Kingdom, where Unilever is headquartered, even residential standard for mercury in soil is 1 mg/kg – 25 times stricter than what Unilever is proposing for an eco-sensitive area in India. “With its refusal to clean up Kodaikanal as it would a site in the United Kingdom, Unilever is begging for another global campaign, and we are happy to oblige,” said Shweta Narayan, an activist with The Other Media. Campaign organisations have declared that they will build pressure on Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board and Unilever to commit to a world class clean-up in the lead up to the state Assembly elections in May 2016 and Unilever’s Annual Shareholders Meetings in England, the Netherlands and Mumbai in the coming months.
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 our campaign and helping the people of Kodaikanal get justice. We need more of your help now as it is first of many of the battles to be won as we need to force Unilever for clean up of the mess they have created.
Be part of the campaign here: Campaign Against Unilever
To know more about the issue, please read:
1.) [Watch/Read] #WontBuyUnilever: Everyone Is Campaigning Against Unilever, Know Why?
2.) Dear Unilever Shareholders, We Made You Rich And Your Company Poisoned Us!