Every year, we recognize pioneering individuals within the company who have brought our values to life and truly embody what it means to be part of Unilever. Our 2019 Heroes with Impact have gone above and beyond their day-to-day jobs. Their stories paint a picture of passion, purpose and drive.

Palu is a small city on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, home to a population of over 300,000 and popular with tourists for its white sandy beaches.

On 28 September 2018, the city was hit by a powerful earthquake which had its epicentre 80km to the north. Winarto-Anggun Wicaksono, who was at the time Area Sales Manager in our Palu office, remembers the day. “It was very, very scary,” he says. “The floor was shaking, not only up and down but left and right. I ran as fast as I could to get outside the building. People were screaming, ‘tsunami, tsunami’.”

They were right. A tsunami up to 3 metres high swept through Palu, knocking down buildings and damaging mosques. Despite the danger, Winarto headed for the waterfront where his family lived but could not locate them.

Despite being unsure whether his family had reached safety, Winarto made his way back to the Unilever depot and started to organize a relief team to help residents. “With the team, I put on a strong face – I wanted to give them hope,” he says. “But inside, in my heart, I could have cried.”

Ensuring the safe evacuation of all Unilever families

One of his first actions was to help set up a relief camp amid the chaos. Electricity and the internet were cut off, food and clean water were scarce, and key infrastructure had been destroyed. Nonetheless, Winarto managed to liaise with Unilever’s crisis management team in Jakarta and led efforts to execute the emergency plan.

He began tracking down the families of local Unilever employees. Within 72 hours, under Winarto’s leadership, all Unilever team members and their families, as well as those of our business partners – a total of 81 people – had been safely evacuated to Makassar, some 500km to the south.

While others were flown to safety, Winarto refused to leave with the earlier evacuations and determined to stay until he was no longer needed.

But good news followed: his own family were safe and among the first wave to be taken to Makassar.

Reflecting on this natural disaster which claimed over 2,000 lives, Winarto admits, “we are very lucky – we are still alive”. The judges highlighted his selflessness and leadership during the emergency and praised this “incredible act of heroism”.

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