India: Civil society raises concerns over censure of IIM Bangalore professor in connection with statements about Hindustan Unilever’s environmental record

IIM-B_Malghan Story [Credit_The Hindu]

In October 2018, the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore (IIM-B), a leading business university, issued a censure against Associate Professor Deepak Malghan, requesting that he retract a statement encouraging management to disinvite Hindustan Unilever Ltd. (HUL) from a student recruitment event. Professor Malghan's statement relates to ongoing environmental concerns associated with mercury contamination arising from the closure of HUL's thermometer factory in Kondaikanal. IIM-B stated that the censure was based on allegations of impermissibly communicating directly with stakeholders (in this case, students) and other issues allegedly occuring over a long period of time. Professor Malghan retracted his statement "under protest" and is appealing the censure. Civil society groups have crticised IIM-B, citing concerns for "the rapidly decreasing spaces to discuss and debate development trajectories premised on the denial of human rights of the weaker and voiceless sections in India" (The Human Rights and Business Network, India).

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Company response
29 January 2019

India: IIM Bangalore's response

Author: Dr. Devi Prasad Shetty, Chairman, Indian Institute of Management Bangalore

 28 January 2019 

Subject: Civil Society requests for reversal of censure

Dear HRBN,

Greetings from IIM Bangalore!

I thank you for your email dated January 11, 2019 addressed to me through the Secretary, Board of Governors, IIMB.

While I appreciate your concern for “environmental justice” and a commitment to transforming students into critical citizens and empathetic human beings, please do recognize that each institution could approach it in the manner that best fits their vision, mission and values.

Let me assure that we have in no way come under the pressure of any corporate in this matter.

The censure was not a consequence of just the matter that you refer to, but a series of issues over a long period of time with the said faculty member.  On multiple grounds, an internal process was undertaken. After following due processes, the Competent Authority has decided to stay with the censure. Amongst various concerns, we would like to ensure that our students are not affected, and our institutional values including academic freedom with responsibility are preserved.

We would be happy to respond to any further concerns, preferably through a meeting. Our Director would be happy to represent.

With warm regards,

Dr. Devi Prasad Shetty


Board of Governors, IIM Bangalore


Company response
21 January 2019

Response from Unilever

Author: Prasad Pradhan, Hindustan Unilever Ltd

The Indian Institute of Management Bangalore is an independent institution; any action taken by the institution against one of its faculty members, is their internal matter and it would not be appropriate for us to comment on this.

 On the issue of Hindustan Unilever Limited’s former factory in Kodaikanal, our endeavour has always been to resolve this issue in a fair and transparent manner…

 We are aware that in July 2018, there was a lecture that one of the faculty members hosted at the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore (IIMB), where activists were invited to engage with the students. The session was held with no representation from Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL). Moreover, no attempt was made to reach out to HUL and understand the facts of the case. We feel that an issue where statutory and judiciary authorities are involved and have passed judgements, it is inappropriate to cast aspersions which are not based on facts. It is also pertinent to mention that the matter was sub judice with the National Green Tribunal (NGT), which is India’s highest Court dealing with environment-related cases.

 We would like to take this opportunity to inform you about a recent and important development on this matter. On November 1, 2018, the NGT cleared the way for soil remediation at HUL’s former factory in Kodaikanal…

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15 January 2019

India: Civil Society requests for reversal of censure

Author: Human Rights and Business Network India

"Civil Society requests for reversal of censure", 11 January 2019

The Human Rights and Business Network is a coalition of academics, civil society activists, journalists, and indigenous groups created to defend the human rights of precarious communities in India. Due to the nature of its work, the HRBN is acutely aware of the rapidly decreasing spaces to discuss and debate development trajectories premised on the denial of human rights of the weaker and voiceless sections in India. Given the already bleak context, we are alarmed at the recent actions taken by the administration of the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore (IIMB) to censure Deepak Malghan, an Associate Professor in the institute. 

The trigger for IIMB’s actions is ostensibly Dr. Malghan’s suggestion in an email that students hold Hindustan Unilever to account for the irreversible damages caused by its factory to the ecology of Kodaikanal and the denial of the rights of communities to a healthy life. For its part, IIMB justifies these actions as a defense of the interests of its “stakeholders”, that presumably includes Hindustan Unilever...

...IIMB’s decision to censure Dr. Malghan is a shocking display of submission to corporate interests. This meekness is a symptom of an affliction by a malaise known to infect many business schools– the substitution of “higher aims”, in this case academic freedom and defending the weak, with an eagerness to become “hired hands” in the service of corporations...

...We request the Board of Governors at IIMB to reverse the decision to censure Dr. Malghan and thereby reiterate the protections of academic freedom at IIMB...

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14 January 2019

India: Call to support IIM Bangalore professor, reportedly censured for seeking action against Unilever

Author: Counterview, India

"Call to support IIM-Bangalore professor, censured for seeking action against Unilever", 9 January 2019

Sections of the Indian Institute of Managements (IIMs) across India have strongly reacted to the decision to censure Dr. Deepak Malghan, a faculty at IIM-Bangalore. Prabhir Vishnu Poruthiyil, who is faculty at IIM-Tiruchirapalli, has sought wider solidarity with Dr Malghan, saying, "The administration has censured Deepak for merely suggesting a meaningful action against Hindustan Unilever for their abysmal environmental record" by “disinviting” it for campus placement...

Following Poruthiyil plea, the Human Rights and Business Network of India (HRBN-I) has created a petition in support of Dr Malghan, to be sent to the IIM-B board. HRBN-I, which is a civil society network working on issues related to business and human rights in India, has called Dr Malghan a "recognized scholar"...[noting that] Hindustan Unilever...has been "in the midst of a controversy related to its decision in 2001 to carelessly dump mercury, a hazardous chemical, when closing down a plant located at Kodaikanal."

HRBN-I adds, "This issue is disheartening because it exposes once again the narrowing of spaces for critical research in Indian academia, and more specifically the usurpation of business education by corporate interests."...

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14 January 2019

India: Leading business school censures professor in connection with request to disinvite Unilever from recruitment event

Author: Akanksha Kumar, The Quint, India

"Want IIM-B to Walk the Talk on CSR: Prof on Disinviting Unilever", 11 December 2018

An associate professor [Deepak Malghan] at IIM [Indian Institute of Management] Bangalore has received a censure order from the director for sending a mail to the Placement Committee, saying they should “disinvite” Unilever during campus placement...After a written censure order was issued..., Dr Malghan has retracted his mail...Though [he] maintains that he did so "under protest"...

...[Dr. Malghan had] urged IIM Bangalore to act like a “responsible university”: “Would it be possible to disinvite HUL/Unilever from the upcoming summer placements unless they pledge to end their environmental racism. An institution like IIM-B disinviting them from placements will send out a powerful message that management institutions can actually walk the talk about corporate responsibility.”...Unilever is among the several top-notch private companies that visits IIM-B every year for hiring MBA graduates...[Dr. Malghan] says, “the censure order itself does not cite any particular violation and that’s why I filed an appeal.”...

[IIM Bangalore issued the following statement]: “IIM Bangalore holds the highest traditions of academic freedom, but with it comes responsibility of one’s actions on other stakeholders. This censure was a consequence of a series of issues over a long period of time with the said Faculty member...”

In response to a questionnaire sent by The Quint, [a Hindstan Unilever] spokesperson said: “As part of our drive to attract the most promising talent to work with us, Hindustan Unilever Limited continuously reviews its recruitment strategy. IIM-Bangalore nurtures some of the finest future leaders in the country, and we continue to value our partnership in bringing some of their best and brightest talent into the Unilever fold.”

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