Unilever Chief Executive Paul Polman has been forced to defend the company’s record on Twitter following a high-profile social media campaign accusing the company of failing in its duty to clean-up toxic waste at the site of a former thermometer factory in India.
The controversial site, in Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu, is now the subject of a YouTube video featuring Indian rapper, Sofia Ashraf, who charges the company with dumping toxic mercury in Kodaikanal, poisoning its workers and the forest and failing to clean up the contamination or compensate former employees and their families.
Almost 2.3 million viewers worldwide have tuned in to the video to date, which features controversial lyrics penned by Ashraf, a former copywriter for Ogilvy & Mather who counts Unilever among its clients: “Unilever has been hiding behind their fake PSAs and Pepsodent smiles. They cleaned their hands of Kodai with Lifebuoy… Poison in the soil, you don’t have us foiled, your clean-up was a sham,” she sings – prompting some 60,000 people to sign a petition urging Hindustan Unilever to act on the accusations.
No doubt as a direct result of the online protest, which saw some social media users call for a boycott of Unilever products, Polman tweeted on Thursday: “Working actively solution kodai #UnileverPollutes for several years already. Determined to solve. Need others too and facts not false emotions” and “Don’t accept different standards.All humans same. We need gov to agree and move #UnileverPollutes .Determined to solve fast. Too slow progress”.