89,744 of 100,000 signatures

To Paul Polman, CEO, Unilever

Petition

Clean up Kodaikanal to global standards! Europeans won't stand behind multinational corporations that poison people and environment, whether here in Europe or abroad. Commit to a world-class clean-up now.

Why is this important?

In 2001, Unilever dumped toxic mercury in the south Indian hill town of Kodaikanal, poisoning its workers and the forest. [1]

To this day, the mercury-tainted factory site continues to leak the deadly neurotoxin into the environment and the forests nearby, even though the factory has been closed for seventeen years. Local activists and non-profit groups have called on Unilever to clean up its mess, [2] but so far their calls are falling on deaf ears.

If Unilever dumped a deadly neurotoxin somewhere in Europe that made people sick and destroyed the environment, authorities would demand Unilever clean up the site to proper standards. But since the damage was done far away in the developing world and involves marginalised communities, Unilever is refusing to clean up to standards that we, as Europeans, would be afforded.

Late last year, in attempts to appease locals, Unilever used a substandard clean-up process that likely ended up releasing more mercury into the environment than it recovered. [3] This would never have even been allowed in Europe!

Unilever is a European company, so as Europeans we are uniquely placed to speak out against this double-standard, and to hold Unilever to account. Local and international pressure has been mounting over the past year, and if Unilever is faced with a mobilisation here at home, they'll have to take real action to avoid losing face. With our help, Kodaikanal could be a healthy, habitable place once again.

Indian activists have already achieved what they thought was unthinkable: after 15 years of campaigning, Unilever finally caved and agreed to compensate workers at the site for being poisoned with mercury. [4] But the forest in Kodaikanal is still suffering. Paul Polman, Unilever’s CEO, committed to cleaning up the factory site. [5] But these have remained empty words.

References:

[1] https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/mumbai/mercury-pollution-former-workers-from-tn-unit-protest-outside-hul-head-office/ https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/study-indicates-high-level-of-mercury-in-fish-at-kodai-lake/article20406597.ece https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/two-important-bird-areas-in-tn-face-threat-says-survey/article22987324.ece

[2] https://act.jhatkaa.org/campaigns/Unilever-racism

[3] http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/tamil-nadu/2018/jan/17/unending-fallout-of-defunct-thermometer-factory-at-kodaikanal-in-tamil-nadu-1755564.html https://www.business-standard.com/article/companies/hindustan-unilever-limited-begins-soil-remediation-at-kodaikanal-117082000007_1.html

[4] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/mar/09/unilever-settles-dispute-over-mercury-poisoning-in-india

[5] https://twitter.com/PaulPolman/status/629373407910567936?s=17%20


Image modified from original by Amolmande18 [CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons

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Please can you chip in?

In 2001, Unilever dumped toxic mercury in the south Indian hill town of Kodaikanal, poisoning its workers and the forest. Now, activists in India have asked for our help to amplify their message and reach Unilever on its home turf.

Will you chip in just a few euros each month so that our community can keep the pressure up on multinationals like Unilever to stop polluting our planet, in Europe and abroad?

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