Global Day of Action Against Unilever 2015

Action alert: On the 6th of March 2015, stand up with the people of Kodaikanal in their fight for justice against a giant corporation – Appeal from ex-workers and residents

Ex-workers of Unilever's closed thermometer plant, their families and residents of Kodaikanal demand justice
Ex-workers of Unilever’s closed thermometer plant, their families and residents of Kodaikanal demand justice

We, the residents of Kodaikanal, India, invite you to join us in solidarity by taking action to highlight Unilever’s labour, environmental and social practices that detract from its stated commitment to sustainability and responsibility.

Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan professes three major goals — promoting health and well-being, sustainable sourcing of raw materials and reducing its environmental footprint. As important as it is to know what Unilever is doing to achieve these goals, it is critical to know what Unilever is not doing that is detracting from these goals.

In Kodaikanal, India, Hindustan Unilever operated a second-hand mercury thermometer factory it inherited from Chesebrough Pond’s for 18 years. The factory was located adjacent to a dense and biodiverse protected forest that is part of a prominent watershed. In 2001, the factory was shut down for violating environmental laws when it was found to have dumped toxic mercury wastes in nearby forests, within its factory premises and in a scrapyard in a crowded part of town.

A recent Government of India report found that the factory’s negligence extended even to occupational hygiene and work safety practices. The report found these to be inadequate and concluded that workers and their families had been affected due to mercury exposure of workers in the shop-floor.

In the more than a decade since the factory shut down, precious little has been done to clean up the contaminated environment to standards that would be protective of the dense and bio-diverse forests in the vicinity. Neither has it taken steps to address the health concerns of its ex-workers, many of whom are too sick to work for a living.

Unilever’s inaction in Kodaikanal stands in stark contrast to its claims of sustainability, responsibility and care extending to its workers and communities.

On or around 6 March, 2015 – the 14th anniversary of closure of the plant, we request you to take action to highlight Unilever’s irresponsibility in Kodaikanal and other places:

  • Organise actions at Hindustan Unilever/Unilever offices in your cities/countries;
  • Organise photo exhibitions, film screenings on Unilever’s mercury pollution in schools, among workers and in your community;
  • Undertake mass letter writing campaigns targeting Paul Polman, CEO, Unilever Plc, urging him to walk the talk on environmental responsibility and sustainability in Kodaikanal. Unilever’s contact address: Unilever Plc, 100VE, 100 Victoria Embankment, London EC4Y 0DY. Email: paul.polman@unilever.com

We also urge you to write, call, fax or take a delegation to visit the local Unilever office and ask them to take responsibility for their pollution in Kodaikanal. Contact details for Unilever offices worldwide can be found by verifying their country websites. Select the country on Unilever’s website here

Kindly intimate us of your intent to take action along with details by sending an email to: kodai.struggle@gmail.com

Sincerely, Members of Ponds Hindustan Lever Ltd Ex-Mercury Employees Welfare Union Residents of Kodaikanal