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Unilever N.V.
Unilever PLC
TypeNaamloze vennootschap/
Public limited company
Traded asEuronextUNA, LSEULVR, NYSEUN and NYSEUL
IndustryConsumer goods
Founder(s)Antonius Johannes Jurgens, Samuel van den Bergh and William Hulme Lever, 2nd Viscount Leverhulme
HeadquartersUnilever House,
London, United Kingdom
Rotterdam, the Netherlands
Area servedWorldwide
Key peopleMichael Treschow
Paul Polman
ProductsFoods, beverages, cleaning agents and personal care products
Revenue51.32 billion (2012)[1]
Operating income€6.989 billion (2012)[1]
Net income€4.480 billion (2012)[1]
Total assets€46.16 billion (2012)[1]
Total equity€15.15 billion (2012)[1]
Employees171,000 (2012)[2]
SubsidiariesHindustan Unilever
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Unilever N.V.
Unilever PLC
TypeNaamloze vennootschap/
Public limited company
Traded asEuronextUNA, LSEULVR, NYSEUN and NYSEUL
IndustryConsumer goods
Founder(s)Antonius Johannes Jurgens, Samuel van den Bergh and William Hulme Lever, 2nd Viscount Leverhulme
HeadquartersUnilever House,
London, United Kingdom
Rotterdam, the Netherlands
Area servedWorldwide
Key peopleMichael Treschow
Paul Polman
ProductsFoods, beverages, cleaning agents and personal care products
Revenue51.32 billion (2012)[1]
Operating income€6.989 billion (2012)[1]
Net income€4.480 billion (2012)[1]
Total assets€46.16 billion (2012)[1]
Total equity€15.15 billion (2012)[1]
Employees171,000 (2012)[2]
SubsidiariesHindustan Unilever

Unilever[3] (EuronextUNA, LSEULVR) is an Anglo–Dutch multinational consumer goods company. Its products include foods, beverages, cleaning agents and personal care products. It is the world's third-largest consumer goods company measured by 2011 revenues (after Procter & Gamble and Nestlé) and the world's largest maker of ice cream.[4][5]

Unilever is a dual-listed company consisting of Unilever N.V., based in Rotterdam, Netherlands, and Unilever PLC, based in London, United Kingdom. Both companies have the same directors and they operate as a single business. The current non-executive chairman of Unilever N.V. and PLC is Michael Treschow while Paul Polman is Group Chief Executive.

Unilever owns over 400 brands, amongst the largest selling of which are Aviance, Axe/Lynx, Ben & Jerry's, Dove, Flora/Becel, Heartbrand, Hellmann's, Knorr, Lipton, Lux/Radox, Omo/Surf, Rexona/Sure, Sunsilk, Toni & Guy, TRESemmé, VO5 and Wish-Bone.

Unilever PLC has a primary listing on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index. It had a market capitalisation of £27.3 billion as of 23 December 2011, the 18th-largest of any company with a primary listing on the London Stock Exchange.[6] Unilever N.V. has a primary listing on Euronext Amsterdam and is a constituent of the AEX index. Both Unilever PLC and Unilever N.V. have secondary listings on the New York Stock Exchange.



1930 to 2000

Lever House in New York City, which was the United States headquarters of Unilever from 1952 to 1997

Unilever was founded on 1 January 1930 by Antonius Johannes Jurgens, Samuel van den Bergh and William Hulme Lever, 2nd Viscount Leverhulme.

The amalgamation of the operations of British soapmaker Lever Brothers and Dutch margarine producer Margarine Unie (a 1927 amalgamation of Anton Jurgens' Margarinefabrieken (nl) from the Leverd family and Samuel van den Bergh) made sound commercial sense, as palm oil was a major raw material for both margarines and soaps, and could be imported more efficiently in larger quantities.

The initial harvesting of palm oil was from British West Africa, from where news reports seen back in England showed the workers abroad in favourable conditions.[7] In 1911, the company received a concession for 750,000 hectares of forest in Belgian Congo, mostly south of Bandundu, where a system of forced labour operated.[8] The subsidiary of Lever Brothers was named "Huileries du Congo Belge (fr)". During the great depression in the thirties, the Huileries sharply decreased the fee for gathered oil nuts, while the government of Belgian Congo strongly increased taxation. This resulted in social unrest in 1931, which is known as the Revolution of the Pende, in which eventually more than 400 members of the Pende tribe were killed.[9]

In the 1930s, the Unilever business grew and new ventures were launched in Africa and Latin America. In 1972, Unilever purchased A&W Restaurants' Canadian division but sold its shares through a management buyout to former A&W Food Services of Canada CEO Jefferson J. Mooney in July 1996.[10] By 1980 soap and edible fats contributed just 40% of profits, compared with an original 90%. In 1984 the company bought the brand Brooke Bond (maker of PG Tips tea).

In 1987, Unilever strengthened its position in the world skin care market by acquiring Chesebrough-Ponds (merged from Chesebrough Manufacturing and Pond's Creams), the maker of Ragú, Pond's, Aqua-Net, Cutex Nail Polish, and Vaseline. In 1989, Unilever bought Calvin Klein Cosmetics, Fabergé, and Elizabeth Arden, but the latter was later sold (in 2000) to FFI Fragrances.[11]

In 1996, Unilever purchased Helene Curtis Industries, giving the company "a powerful new presence in the United States shampoo and deodorant market".[11] The purchase brought Unilever the Suave and Finesse hair-care product brands and Degree deodorant brand.[12]

In 1997, Unilever sold the speciality chemicals businesses National Starch & Chemical, Quest, Unichema and Crosfield to ICI for US$8 billion.[13]

The US division carried the Lever Brothers name until the 1990s, when it adopted that of the parent company. The American unit has headquarters in New Jersey, and no longer maintains a presence at Lever House, the iconic skyscraper on Park Avenue in New York City.

Unilever established a sustainable agriculture programme in 1998.[14]

2000 to 2011

Global employment at Unilever 2000–2008
Black represents employment numbers in Europe, light grey represents the Americas and dark grey represents Asia, Africa, and Middle East.
Between 2000 and 2008 Unilever reduced global workforce numbers by 41%, from 295,000 to 174,000.
Notes: Europe figures for 2000–2003 are all Europe; from 2004 figures in black are Western Europe. For 2004–2008 figures for Asia, Africa and Middle East include Eastern and Central Europe.
Source: Unilever Annual Reports 2004, 2008

In 2000, the company absorbed the American business Best Foods, strengthening its presence in North America and extending its portfolio of foods brands. In April 2000, it bought both Ben & Jerry's and Slim Fast. In May 2007, Unilever became the first large-scale company to commit to sourcing all its tea in a sustainable manner,[15] employing the Rainforest Alliance, an international environmental NGO, to certify its tea estates in East Africa, as well as third-party suppliers in Africa and other parts of the world.[16] It declared its aim to have all Lipton Yellow Label and PG Tips tea bags sold in Western Europe certified by 2010, followed by all Lipton tea bags globally by 2015.[17]

Covalence, an ethical reputation ranking agency, placed Unilever at the top of its ranking based on positive versus negative news coverage for 2007.[18]

In 2007, Unilever's Dove "Evolution" video that ran only online, was named the first ever non-TV spot to win the Grand Lion at the Cannes Advertising Festival. And in March 2008, Unilever was named "Digital Marketer of the Year" by Advertising Age.

On 25 September 2009, Unilever agreed to acquire the personal care business of Sara Lee Corporation, including brands such as Radox, Badedas and Duschdas, strengthening its category leadership in skin cleansing and deodorants.[19]

On 9 August 2010, Unilever signed an asset purchase agreement with the Norwegian dairy group TINE, to acquire the activities of Diplom-Is in Denmark.[20]

On 24 September 2010, Unilever announced that it had entered into a definitive agreement to sell its consumer tomato products business in Brazil to Cargill.[21]

On 27 September 2010, Unilever purchased Alberto-Culver, a maker of personal care and household products including Simple,[disambiguation needed] VO5, Nexxus, TRESemmé, and Mrs. Dash, for $US3.7 billion.[22]

On 28 September 2010, Unilever and EVGA announced that they had signed an agreement under which Unilever would acquire EVGA’s ice cream brands (amongst others, Scandal, Variete and Karabola) and distribution network in Greece, for an undisclosed amount.[23]

2011 to present

On 23 March 2011, it was announced that Unilever had entered into a binding agreement to sell the Sanex brand to Colgate-Palmolive for €672 million, and that Unilever would acquire Colgate-Palmolive's laundry detergent brands in Colombia (Fab, Lavomatic and Vel) for US$215 million.[24]

In April 2011, Unilever was fined 104m euros by the European Commission for establishing a price-fixing cartel in Europe along with P&G, who was fined 211.2m euros, and Henkel (not fined). Though the fine was set higher at first, it was discounted by 10% after Unilever and P&G admitted running the cartel. As the provider of the tip-off leading to investigations, Henkel was not fined.[25]

On 24 August 2011, it was announced that Unilever had agreed to sell the Alberto VO5 brand in the United States and Puerto Rico, and the Rave brand globally, to Brynwood Partners VI L.P.[26]

On 14 October 2011, it was announced that Unilever had agreed to acquire 82% of the Russia-based beauty company Kalina.[27]

On 27 December 2012, it was announced the Unilever is phasing out the use of microplastics in their personal care products by 2015.[28]

In January 2013 Unilever agreed to sell the Skippy peanut butter brand, together with related manufacturing facilities in Little Rock, Arkansas, United States and Weifang, China, to Hormel Foods for approximately $700 million (£433 million) in cash.[29][30]


The Unilever R&D Centre in Bangalore, India

Unilever is multinational with operating companies and factories on every continent except Antarctica and research laboratories in: Colworth and Port Sunlight, England; Vlaardingen, the Netherlands; Trumbull, Connecticut and Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, United States; Bangalore, India (see also Hindustan Unilever Limited); and Shanghai, China.


Unilever's products include foods, beverages, cleaning agents and personal care products. The company owns more than 400 brands, although its 25 largest brands account for over 70% of total sales.[31] Unilever focuses resources on 13 "billion-Euro brands", each of which has annual sales in excess of €1 billion. Unilever organises its brands into four categories: Homecare, Personal Care, Foods and Refreshment (which includes tea, ice-cream and beverages).

Unilever's current largest-selling brands include: Aviance; Axe/Lynx; Ben & Jerry's; Dove; Flora/Becel; Heartbrand; Hellmann's; Knorr; Lipton; Lux/Radox; Omo/Surf; Rexona/Sure; Wish-Bone; Sunsilk; Toni & Guy;[32][33] TRESemmé; and VO5.

Corporate affairs

Legal structure

Unilever House in London, United Kingdom

Unilever has two holding companies: Unilever PLC, which has its registered office at Port Sunlight in Merseyside, United Kingdom and its head office at Unilever House in London, United Kingdom; and Unilever N.V., which has its registered and head office in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.[34] Unilever PLC and Unilever N.V. and their subsidiary companies operate as nearly as practicable as a single economic entity, whilst remaining separate legal entities with different shareholders and separate stock exchange listings.[34]

There are a series of legal agreements between the parent companies, together with special provisions in their respective Articles of Association, which are known as the Foundation Agreements.[34] A key requirement of the agreements is that the same people be on the Boards of the two parent companies. An Equalisation Agreement regulates the mutual rights of shareholders in Unilever PLC and Unilever N.V. with the objective of ensuring that, in principle, it does not make any financial difference to hold shares in Unilever PLC rather than Unilever N.V. (and vice versa).[34]

Senior management

Unilever's highest executive body is the Unilever Leadership Executive, which is led by the Group Chief Executive (currently Paul Polman).

Members of the current Unilever Executive include:

  • Paul Polman (Group Chief Executive)
  • Doug Baillie (Chief HR Officer)
  • Geneviève Berger (Chief R&D Officer)
  • Kevin Havelock (President, Refreshment)
  • Jean-Marc Huet (chief financial officer)
  • Alan Jope (President, North Asia)
  • Dave Lewis (President, Personal Care)
  • Harish Manwani (chief operating officer)
  • Antoine de Saint-Affrique (President, Food)
  • Kees Kruythoff (President, North America)
  • Pier Luigi Sigismondi (Chief supply chain officer)
  • Keith Weed (Chief marketing and communication officer)
  • Jan Zijderveld (President, Europe)

Unilever's current executive and non-executive directors are:


Dove products

Unilever is one of the largest media buyers in the world, and invested around €6 billion (US$8 billion) in advertising and promotion in 2010.[35][36]

Unilever has produced many notable advertising campaigns, including: Lynx/Axe click advert with Nick Lachey (United States) and Ben Affleck (rest of the world); PG Tips Monkey and Al; Knorr Chinese Soup, 'Just add one egg!'; and the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, launched in 2007.[37]

The current Unilever corporate logo was introduced in 2004 and was designed by the brand consultancy Wolff Olins. It is composed of 24 icons woven together to create a U shape, with each icon representing one of the company's sub-brands or its corporate values.[38] The brand identity was developed around the idea of "adding vitality to life."[39]

Major competitors

Unilever's largest international competitors are Nestlé and Procter & Gamble.[40] It also faces competition in local markets or specific product ranges from numerous companies, including Beiersdorf, ConAgra, Danone, Henkel, Mars, Pepsico, Reckitt Benckiser and S. C. Johnson & Son.

Unilever Foundation

The Unilever Foundation is partnering with five leading global organisations: Oxfam, PSI, Save The Children, UNICEF and the World Food Programme and is dedicated to improve the quality through provision of hygiene, sanitation, access to clean drinking water, basic nutrition and enhancing self-esteem.

Environmental record

Unilever has declared the goal of decoupling its environmental impact from its growth, by: halving the environmental footprint of its products over the next 10 years; helping 1 billion people improve their health and well-being; and sourcing all of its agricultural raw materials sustainably.[41]

Despite these ambitious sustainability goals, the company doesn't have a concrete plan yet and pursues a trial-and-error strategy.[42]

Palm oil

Unilever has been criticised by Greenpeace for causing deforestation,[43] Unilever was targeted in 2008 by Greenpeace UK,[44] which criticised the company for buying palm oil from suppliers that are damaging Indonesia's rainforests. Unilever, as a founding member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), responded by publicising its plan to obtain all of its palm oil from sources that are certified as sustainable by 2015.[45]

In Côte d'Ivoire, one of Unilever's palm oil suppliers was accused of clearing forest for plantations, an activity that threatened a primate species, Miss Waldron's Red Colobus. Unilever intervened to halt the clearances pending the results of an environmental assessment.[46]

In April 2012, Unilever released a report on the progress made with its sustainable living plan. The company reported that it would achieve its goal of 100% certified sustainable palm oil by the end of 2012, three years ahead of schedule.[47]

Rainforest Alliance

Unilever has committed to purchase all its tea from sustainable, ethical sources.[48] It has asked the international environmental NGO, Rainforest Alliance, to start by certifying tea farms in Africa.

See also


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  2. ^ "Facts". Unilever. http://www.unilever.com/aboutus/introductiontounilever/unileverataglance/. Retrieved 2013-02-10.
  3. ^ pron.: /ˈjuːnɨlvər/
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  5. ^ "An Ice Cream Machine That Measures Smiles". CBS News. 25 June 2010. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/06/25/tech/main6616630.shtml. Retrieved 7 January 2012.
  6. ^ "FTSE All-Share Index Ranking". stockchallenge.co.uk. http://www.stockchallenge.co.uk/ftse.php. Retrieved 26 December 2011.
  7. ^ "British Pathe News, Wealth of the World, 1950". Britishpathe.com. http://www.britishpathe.com/embed.php?archive=72631. Retrieved 2013-02-10.
  8. ^ Jules Marechal, "Travail forcé pour l’huile de palme de Lord Leverhulme L’Histoire du Congo 1910–1945". Part III. Editions Paula Bellings. pp.348–368.
  9. ^ Congo, David van Reybrouck
  10. ^ "Chronolgy of A&W Root Beer Canada". Islandnet.com. http://www.islandnet.com/~kpolsson/awhistca/. Retrieved 19 April 2011.
  11. ^ a b New York Times, 15 February 1996 "Unilever Agrees to Buy Helene Curtis".
  12. ^ Id.
  13. ^ "National Starch sold to ICI". Highbeam.com. 1 June 1997. http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-19716641.html. Retrieved 27 September 2010.
  14. ^ Unilever's sustainable agriculture programme[dead link]
  15. ^ Nicholson, Marcy (25 May 2007). "San Diego Times". Signonsandiego.com. http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/business/20070525-0857-tea-unilever-sustainable.html. Retrieved 19 April 2011.
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  17. ^ "Unilever press release". Unilever.com. http://www.unilever.com/ourcompany/newsandmedia/pressreleases/2007/sustainable-tea-sourcing.asp. Retrieved 19 April 2011.
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  19. ^ Unilever buys Sara Lee's personal care division for £1.17bn Daily Telegraph, 25 September 2009
  20. ^ Unilever acquires Diplom-Is operations in Denmark Food Bev, 11 August 2010
  21. ^ Cargill Acquires Unilever Tomato Business Food Processing, 30 September 2010
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  23. ^ Unilever buys Greek Ice Cream Manufacturer Food News, 28 September 2010
  24. ^ Unilever and Colgate-Palmolive exchange brands Marketing Week, 23 March 2011
  25. ^ "Unilever and Procter & Gamble in price fixing fine". BBC News. 13 April 2011. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-13064928.
  26. ^ Unilever Sells Alberto VO5, Rave to Brynwood Wall Street Journal, 24 August 2011
  27. ^ Unilever to Buy Russia’s Kalina in $694 Million Deal to Aid Emerging Push Bloomberg, 14 October 2011
  28. ^ "The Maker of Dove Soaps Will Phase Out Exfoliating Plastic Microbeads". Business Insider. 27 December 2012. http://www.businessinsider.com/unilever-phasing-out-microplastics-by-2015-2012-12. Retrieved 29 December 2012.
  29. ^ "Spam maker Hormel pays $700m for Unilever's Skippy peanut butter business". The Telegraph. 3 January 2013. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/retailandconsumer/9778344/Spam-maker-Hormel-pays-700m-for-Unilevers-Skippy-peanut-butter-business.html. Retrieved 12 January 2013.
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  31. ^ 2008 Annual Report and Accounts pp.2–3.
  32. ^ "Unilever Completes TIGI Acquisition". GCI magazine. 14 April 2009. http://www.gcimagazine.com/business/suppliers/acquisitions/42958262.html.
  33. ^ "TIGI consumer site". http://www.tigihaircare.com/consumer/en-NZ/home/.
  34. ^ a b c d "Governance of Unilever – 1 January 2012". Unilever. http://www.unilever.com/images/The-Governance-of-Unilever-10-01-12_tcm13-216301.pdf. Retrieved 9 April 2012.
  35. ^ Rushton, Katherine (13 December 2011). "Unilever to shake up £5.1bn global advertising spend". London: The Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/mediatechnologyandtelecoms/media/8954352/Unilever-to-shake-up-5.1bn-global-advertising-spend.html. Retrieved 9 January 2012.
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  38. ^ "Unilever icons explained". Logodesignlove.com. 2011-12-01. http://www.logodesignlove.com/unilever-icons. Retrieved 2013-02-10.
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  41. ^ "Sustainable Living Plan". Unilever. 15 November 2010. http://www.sustainable-living.unilever.com/the-plan.
  42. ^ Jean-Marc Huet: Hunting Sustainability CFO Insight Magazine, Retrieved 11/08/2012
  43. ^ "Unilever admits toxic dumping: will clean up but not come clean". Greenpeace. http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/contentlookup.cfm?CFID=6864301&CFTOKEN=96874361&ucidparam=20010620124942&MenuPoint=G-A. Retrieved 2 August 2007.[dead link]
  44. ^ "Ape protest at Unilever factory". BBC. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/7358071.stm. Retrieved 23 March 2008.
  45. ^ "Unilever commits to certified sustainable palm oil | Media centre | Unilever Global". Unilever.com. 29 August 2012. http://www.unilever.com/mediacentre/pressreleases/2008/Unilevercommitstocertifiedsustainablepalmoil.aspx. Retrieved 2012-10-26.
  46. ^ "Manifesto for the Conservation of the Tanoé Swamps Forest". http://www.manifeste-fmt.org/updates.php. Retrieved 19 July 2008.
  47. ^ "Unilever reports on first year's progress against ground-breaking sustainable living plan targets". Unilever. http://www.unilever.com/mediacentre/pressreleases/2012/unilever-reports-slp-progress.aspx. Retrieved 23 May 2012.
  48. ^ "Unilever sustainable tea Part 1: Leapfrogging to mainstream". http://www.dutchsustainabletrade.com/site/getfile.php?id=153. Retrieved 15 March 2011.

External links