#WontBuyUnilever

Image Credit: Amirtharaj Stephen

#WontBuyUnilever

A campaign by Public mobilisation group Jhatkaa.org, ex-mercury workers association, the Chennai Solidarity Group and The Logical Indian as digital associates.

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Pain Point: The Hindustan Unilever had dumped an enormous amount of toxic mercury in the Kodaikanal area of Tamil Nadu, poisoning the factory workers and the forest. The unregulated dumping of mercury had led to the spreading of several diseases in the vicinity, which caused many deaths. The impact of mercury poisoning has been such that till today many children are born deformed. The factory was ordered to shut down in 2001. Nityanand Jayaraman, an activist, was fighting the corporate giant for more than a decade, demanding accountability and compensation for the affected families. Being one of the most powerful corporations, HUL shied away from taking any responsibility for over 14 years. The corporate giant did nothing to clean up the mess or compensate the workers despite being publicly vocal about "social responsibility".

Our Efforts: The Logical Indian had designed the digital campaign to spread awareness about HUL's mercury poisoning in Kodaikanal. The videos rolled out by The Logical Indian exposed the MNC's gross injustice meted out to the workers and gave the former workers of Unilever a platform to put forward their demands effectively. The Logical Indian first covered the issue in July 2015 through an article written by environmentalist Nityanand Jayaraman. The Logical Indian continued covering Unilever's mercury poisoning when activist Sofia Ashraf's rap song #KodaikanalWon't gained widespread attention and locals came out on the streets to protest. Additionally, The Logical Indian also helped spread the word #WontBuyUnilever and #UnileverPollutes asking people to tweet the hashtag with their selfies and tag Unilever Global CEO Paul Polman.

Impact: What couldn't have been achieved in over a decade of offline struggle was achieved in 6 months of pursuing the matter with our effective digital strategy. The overwhelming response of people online also encouraged several other media houses to open the conversation. Apart from this, various international celebs like Nicki Minaj, Aston Kutcher, Mark Ruffalo and others also tweeted about the campaign, making it go globally viral. Our consistent effort to cover the issue also urged people to sign a petition asking the multinational to clean up the mercury mess it left behind. When it grabbed the attention of millions of people online, Unilever Global CEO Paul Polman, for the first time in 15 years, made a public statement through Twitter acknowledging the issue and taking responsibility for the same. Eventually, Unilever yielded to the social media outrage and compensated the mercury dumps victims after 14 years of on-ground struggle. In less than six months, half of the compensation promised were released. The settlement benefitted the workers' families, and the work to restore and replenish the environment also began in full form.

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Creatives : Vijay S Hegde