Irresponsible Corporations!

I was shocked to hear the remark of my journalist friend! I was mentioned to him that a certain industrial house, with which I was doing an assignment, was engaged in Corporate Social Responsibility projects. The work they were carrying out should inspire many others to engage in good CSR projects I observed. My friend observed, “Their CSR projects does not make a good story, if they falter in their step, it does! He reminded that Infosys did good work, no doubt, but the sexual harassment case faced by their senior manager in USA and the company made juicier story for the press. Press is like a blood hound dog.”

This attitude of the press deserves to be denounced, but the unfortunate part is that industry seems to falter rather too often to claim that they are the victims and evoke public sympathy.

Take a look at the latest cover story in Frontline on Hindustan Unilever’s Thermometer Factory in Kodaikanal. [That’s not a CSR project!] The story says “Nine years after the factory was closed, Frontline shows that the land lies polluted and the workers have grounds to fear mercury poisoning. Frontline unravels how a global corporation took advantage of lax laws in a developing country to run a second-hand plant full of ageing equipment that compromised on safety. We reveal how the company is denying its responsibilities to employees and the environment by relying on questionable scientific studies it commissioned or conducted itself and by withholding employees’ medical records. We detail who was involved, who was ignored, and the abject failure of regulatory authorities in the State to do anything to bring the company to heel.

The company is Hindustan Unilever, the Indian subsidiary 52 per cent of which is owned by the Anglo-Dutch giant Unilever. Responding to Frontline, it admits to polluting the factory grounds but denies all other allegations.

The Frontline cover story is very well researched with 102 references!

The last post in this blog is about how European Companies were undermining workers’ rights in their US operations. India with its corrupt babus and lax enforcement machinery is indeed the ideal place for irresponsible corporations.

Unfortunately HUL is leading the way, no doubt!