Blog: Hannah AbdullaUnilever reaches settlement in India "toxic waste" case

Hannah Abdulla | 10 March 2016

Unilever has reached a settlement deal which will see it compensate 591 workers at a plant in India after a YouTube video last year alleging it of dumping toxic waste near the site went viral.

Last August, Sofia Ashraf, a former Ogilvy & Mather advertising copywriter and a crusading rapper, released a YouTube video accusing Unilever of dumping mercury from a now defunct thermometer factory in the forest near Kodaikanal, bringing to light a petition for economic rehabilitation filed by former workers at the site in 2006.

The video helped Bangalore-based campaign group, Jhatkaa, to collect roughly 45,000 signatures for a petition to Paul Polman, Unilever’s global chief executive, demanding the company clean up the site.

At the time Unilever said it had launched a health and safety investigation into the matter after closing the site in 2001.

Yesterday (9 March) Unilever said it had signed a settlement regarding the matter in which it agreed to provide ex-gratia payments to 591 former workers/association members and their families towards livelihood enhancement projects and skill enhancement programmes.

Dev Bajpai, executive director for legal and corporate affairs for Hindustan Unilever, the FMCG giant's Indian business, said: "We have worked hard over many years to address this and find the right solution for our former workers. We, alongside all involved, are glad to see an outcome to this long-standing case. The wellbeing of our employees and the communities in which we operate has and will always remain paramount. This agreement demonstrates our commitment to this."

The former employees have confirmed this as a full and final settlement of all their claims and demands. They will withdraw the petition they had filed in February 2006.

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