Meet Govinda, one of our 2021 Unilever Heroes. Every year, in the Heroes Awards, we recognise a handful of employees who have gone above and beyond their day job. Against the difficulties of the last 12 months, their stories are even more remarkable, bringing help and hope to communities around the world. We are deeply proud of them.
When the second wave of Covid hit Asia, the small mountainous country of Nepal was critically affected. In May 2021, 45% of the population were believed to be Covid positive.
“The wellbeing and economy of Nepal have been affected badly,” says Govinda Shahi, Safety, Security and Corporate Affairs Manager at Unilever’s office in Kathmandu.
Even at the best of times, operating in Nepal is difficult. “The terrain, small population and logistical issues are immense,” explains Govinda. “When the pandemic struck, I knew I had to step up.”
Vaccinating the workforce
His first thoughts were with Unilever employees and their safety. Unilever’s factory in Hetauda has over 160 employees. “Nepal had to rely on health organisations and other countries for vaccinations and the number of cases was going up every day,” he adds.
Govinda negotiated with the local authorities to put a vaccination programme in place for Unilever. “It was a real challenge to organise the vaccinations, but I never thought of giving up,” he says. “Knowing that I could help make sure my colleagues and their families were protected was all that mattered.”
Thanks to his intervention, nearly 90% of Unilever employees in the country were vaccinated. The programme was extended to their families and the outer core of Unilever’s value chain.
Govinda’s safety priorities also included his work to procure oxygen concentrators for local communities. Nearly 150 oxygen concentrators were successfully sourced from the UK, Korea and India, despite the multiple constraints of technical trade permissions and complex logistics. They were then donated to the Ministry of Health and Population, Nepal Army, Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, and the local government hospital.
And Unilever products were also donated to various recipients, including the Nepal Police, local government, NGOs and local communities.
Maintaining business operations
Maintaining a fully operational company was beneficial to the country at large. Govinda successfully argued for Unilever products to be given ‘essential items of daily use’ status, which meant that production and distribution could continue. In turn, that meant that the population could continue to access the personal care and hygiene products that are desperately needed in a pandemic.
Preserving the majesty of Nepal
Govinda is a man inspired both by love of country and a concern for the health of the planet. He helped set up a partnership with the Nepal Army in their clean-up of Mount Dhaulagiri, as part of a litter retrieval campaign on six Himalayan peaks. Collecting litter in these mountainous conditions is hazardous, but 5,020 kg of waste was removed and sent for recycling.
Govinda’s dedication to his colleagues, his community and his country symbolises not only the spirit of Nepal but also the spirit of Unilever. “I am so proud of what we managed to achieve,” he says.