Online Music Video Calls Unilever's Bluff on Social Responsibility
31st July 2015
Social activists expose Unilever and CEO Paul Polman's hypocrisy with spoof of Nicki Minaj's 'Anaconda' song.
30 July, 2015. CHENNAI — Having reached its target of 5000 signatures in less than a week, a petition hosted by online campaigning platform Jhatkaa.org urging Unilever to settle the company's mercury-related liabilities in Kodaikanal got a major boost today with the launch of a music video titled "Kodaikanal won't. . ." Written by Chennai-born rapper Sofia Ashraf and set to Nicki Minaj's "Anaconda," this song is being used by social activists to expose Unilever's claims to responsibility as hypocritical. Unilever's mercury thermometer factory in the South Indian hill town of Kodaikanal was shut down in 2001 for environmental violations. For 14 years, the company has ignored demands for remediation of its mercury-contaminated site and compensation of mercury-affected workers. Unilever CEO Paul Polman urges other corporates to follow his lead on business as a force for good. In Kodaikanal, he has failed to walk his talk.
The music video was uploaded to Youtube by eminent Carnatic vocalist T.M. Krishna at an event titled "Union Carbide to Unilever: The Myth of Corporate Responsibility." Ex-workers and video director Rathindran Prasad spoke at the event.
"The music video speaks the language of today's English-speaking youth who constitute a substantial chunk of Unilever's consumer base. With its punchy lyrics and fantastically pieced together visuals, the video has all the potential to go viral," said T.M. Krishna.
'Swayer Corporation', Rathindran's other production screened at the event, is a story of a young activist out to kill the CEO of a bad and evil chemical corporation. En route to his target, he meets an old man. His world begins to crumble as conversations unfold. The film that was first screened in Cannes 2015, and the music video set the tone for a discussion on whether corporations could ever behave as socially responsible entities.
Unilever spends $8 billion on marketing itself as a socially responsible company. Even a day's budget would be more than sufficient to start addressing its liabilities in Kodaikanal. "For all its talk of social responsibility, Unilever has behaved no different from Union Carbide in Bhopal," said Nityanand Jayaraman, a Chennai-based writer and social activist.
"Unilever prides itself in its image and is very active on social media, but it has done nothing to prevent this public relations nightmare from exploding," said Sonam Mittal, campaigner with Jhatkaa.org.