VICTORY – #UnileverSettles, but must still clean up its mercury mess
UPDATE: Unilever will be holding its Annual General Meeting (AGM) on 20th April in the United Kingdom. Global CEO Paul Polman will be there to convince his shareholders of what a great job Unilever has done this year. But he still has one urgent item pending on his to-do list: clean up the mercury pollution in Kodaikanal to a high standard
Sign the petition and click here to tweet at Global CEO Paul Polman on the day of the AGM: http://shpg.org/327/165595/twitter
8 months after we launched our viral “Kodaikanal Won’t” music video and petition, Hindustan Unilever (HUL) has announced that they are going to compensate their ex-workers in Kodaikanal! This is a huge victory for human rights, workers’ dignity, and corporate accountability.
While the compensation is 15 years delayed, it will help ex-workers poisoned by mercury repay past debts, meet medical expenses and finally start rebuilding their lives.
With this win, we have the momentum on our side and we must push forward to our second and final demand. Unilever must clean up its mercury contamination of Kodaikanal to a high standard right away. Please sign and share the petition now.
Let’s take a moment to recall the history of this campaign:
HUL owns a mercury thermometer factory in South India which it was forced to shut down in 2001. It came out that many of HUL’s workers had been exposed to toxic mercury, weren’t provided with adequate protective gear, and that 30 ex-workers and 15 children have died. Mercury is very toxic to babies and young children and is known to cause deformities.
While this reality remained, HUL did nothing to compensate workers or give them justice for 14 long years. But then last summer we launched a viral music video and online petition that changed the entire landscape. We got Unilever to stand up and take notice; and Unilever CEO Paul Polman responded promising quick resolution. And this week, 591 ex-workers signed agreements with HUL guaranteeing them fair compensation.
This victory was made possible because of people like you! People who heard about this campaign either online or on the news; and then made the decision to add your voice to the growing chorus calling for justice. So please add your name once again (or for the first time if you’re new to this campaign).
We’ve been able use our voices to put pressure on CEO Polman to ensure that the ex-workers get compensated. Let’s push him again to ensure that Kodaikanal’s environment is cleaned up. There’s still lots of mercury left on the ground.
An extensive scientific study completed in 2015 has suggested the standards to which mercury remediation needs to happen in India — 6.6 mg/kg. This means that for every kilogram of soil, no more than 6.6 mg of mercury can be present in it.
Ultimately, the State Pollution Control Board will direct the standard of cleanup. However, HUL keeps pushing for a weak cleanup standard so that they can save a bit of money in the process, hence stalling the process for years.
These tactics by HUL go against CEO Polmans claims — that Unilever is a responsible and environmentally just company. And as the global head, Polman has influence at all levels of the company. If he comes out in favour of a strong clean up standard, it’s not something that his subsidiary Hindustan Unilever will be able to ignore. And if HUL agrees, then the Pollution Control Board can go ahead and finally give the go-ahead for a high cleanup standard.
Sign and share the petition now!
1. HUL Press release 9 March 2016: https://www.hul.co.in/news/press-releases/2016/hul-former-employees-of-Kodaikanal-factory-sign-settlement.html
2. Mercury cleanup standard India: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B9P8fqOldRJqUlRtM3Nnb0RJbFozSmRwS3ZLbE9BXzUzaUFr
3. Jhatkaa.org, Chennai Solidarity Group, The Other Media press release: http://kodaimercury.org/victory-hindustan-unilever-settles-with-591-kodaikanal-workers/