Type Public company Traded as AMS: UNA, LSE: ULVR, NYSE: UN and NYSE: UL Industry Conglomerate Founded 1930 Headquarters
Unilever House,Rotterdam, The Netherlands
London, United Kingdom
Area served Worldwide Key people Michael Treschow
Products See brands listing Revenue €44.262 billion (2010) Operating income €6.339 billion (2010) Net income €4.598 billion (2010) Employees 163,000 (2010) Website http://unilever.com
Unilever ( /ˈjuːnɨliːvər/) is a British-Dutch multinational corporation that owns many of the world's consumer product brands in foods, beverages, cleaning agents and personal care products.
Unilever is a dual-listed company consisting of Unilever N.V. in Rotterdam, Netherlands and Unilever PLC in London, United Kingdom. This arrangement is similar to those of Reed Elsevier and Royal Dutch Shell prior to their unified structures. Both Unilever companies have the same directors and effectively 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 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 N.V. 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. 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. The subsidiary of Lever Brothers was named "Huileries du Congo Belge". 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 are known as the Revolution of the Pende, in which eventually more than 400 members of the Pende-tribe were killed.
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. 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, 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.
In 1996 Unilever purchased Helene Curtis Industries, giving the company "a powerful new presence in the United States shampoo and deodorant market". The purchase brought Unilever the Suave and Finesse hair-care product brands and Degree deodorant brand.
The company is multinational with operating companies and factories on every continent (except Antarctica) and research laboratories at Colworth and Port Sunlight in England; Vlaardingen in the Netherlands; Trumbull, Connecticut, and Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey in the United States; Bangalore in India (see also Hindustan Unilever Limited); and Shanghai in China.
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.
The company is said to promote sustainability and started a sustainable agriculture programme in 1998.
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 it became the first tea company to commit to sourcing all its tea in a sustainable manner, 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. 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.
Covalence, an ethical reputation ranking agency, placed Unilever at the top of its ranking based on positive versus negative news coverage for 2007.
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.
In 2008 Unilever was honoured at the 59th Annual Technology & Engineering Emmy Awards for "Outstanding Achievement in Advanced Media Technology for Creation and Distribution of Interactive Commercial Advertising Delivered Through Digital Set Top Boxes" for its program Axe: Boost Your ESP.
On 25 September 2009, Unilever decided to acquire the personal care business of Sara Lee Corporation: leading brands such as Radox, Badedas and Duschdas strengthened category leadership in Skin Cleansing and Deodorants.
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, as of 30 September 2010.
On 24 September 2010, Unilever announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to sell its consumer tomato products business in Brazil to Cargill.
On 27 September 2010, Unilever purchased Alberto-Culver, the maker of personal care and household products such as Simple, VO5, Nexxus, TRESemmé, and Mrs. Dash for $US3.7 billion.
On 28 September 2010, Unilever and EVGA announced that they have signed an agreement under which Unilever will acquire EVGA’s ice cream brands (amongst others, Scandal, Variete and Karabola) and distribution network in Greece, for an undisclosed amount.
On 23 March 2011: Unilever announced that it has entered a binding agreement to sell the global Sanex business to Colgate-Palmolive for €672m. Unilever also announced that it has entered into a binding agreement to acquire Colgate-Palmolive’s laundry detergent brands (Fab, Lavomatic and Vel) in Colombia for US$215m.
On 24/08/2011,Unilever annouced to sell VO5 in the USA. Unilever to sell the Alberto VO5 brand in the United States and Puerto Rico, and the Rave brand globally to Brynwood Partners VI L.P.
On 14/10/2011, Unilever annouced to acquire 82% of leading Russian beauty company Kalina Successful brands enhance presence in attractive emerging market, strengthen Personal Care portfolio and create leading position in skin care in Russia.
See "Jurgens Generaties in Beweging" by M.A.J.Jurgens and drs. F.J.M. van de Ven, Volume I and II; Nederlands's Patriciaat Ao 1999, 82e Edition.
ProductsFor a full list of billion dollar brands, see List of Unilever brands.
Unilever owns more than 400 brands as a result of acquisitions, however, the company focuses on what are called the "billion-dollar brands", 13 brands, each of which achieve annual sales in excess of €1 billion. Unilever's top 25 brands account for more than 70% of sales. The brands fall almost entirely into two categories: Food and Beverages, and Home and Personal Care.
Unilever's brands include:
Unilever has produced many advertising campaigns, including:
- Lynx/Axe click advert with Nick Lachey (US only) and Ben Affleck (Non-US only)
- PG Tips Monkey and Al
- Knorr Chinese Soup, 'Just add one egg!'
- Flora margerine recommended by the British Heart Foundation
- Knorr global brand
- Lipton global brand
- Award winning chef Marco Pierre White uses Knorr stock cubes and stock pots
- Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, including Evolution
- Calve Pindakaas (peanut butter) in the Netherlands
- Comfort Pure recommended by mothercare
- CLEAR Men Ice Cool Menthol 2011 with the Portuguese male sports footballer Cristiano Ronaldo
- CLEAR Complete Soft Care 2011 with the Indonesian female actress Sandra Dewi
- CLEAR Soft & Shiny 2011 with the Indonesian female singers Sherina Munaf
- SUNSILK Clean & Fresh 2011 with the Indonesian female singers Lala Karmela
- TRESemmé sponsers UK & Ireland Next Top Model 2011
Unilever's highest executive body is called the Unilever Executive which is led by the Group Chief Executive (Paul Polman). It is responsible for delivering profit and growth across the company.
Members of the Unilever Executive include:
- Paul Polman (Group Chief Executive)
- Doug Baillie(Chief HR Officer)
- Professor Geneviève Berger (Chief Research & Development Officer)
- Jean-Marc Huet (Chief Financial Officer)
- Dave Lewis (Home and Personal Care Executive)
- Harish Manwani (President Asia,Africa, Central & Eastern Europe)
- Pier Luigi Sigismondi (Chief Supply Chain Officer)
- Keith Weed (Chief Marketing and Communication Officer)
- Jan Zijderveld (President Western Europe)
Executive and non-executive directors at Unilever are:
- Michael Treschow
- Louise Fresco
- Ann Fudge
- Charles E. Golden
- Kees J. Storm
- Jeroen van der Veer
- Byron E. Grote
- Hixonia Nyasulu
- The Rt Hon Sir Malcolm Rifkind, MP
- Paul Walsh
- Sunil Bharti Mittal
Unilever's main international competitors include Nestlé and Procter & Gamble. They also face competition in local markets or product ranges from companies such as Beiersdorf, ConAgra, Danone, Henkel, Mars, Inc., Pepsico, Reckitt Benckiser and S. C. Johnson & Son.
Unilever claims that corporate social responsibility is at the heart of its business. However, the transition to a responsible and sustainable company is ongoing and Unilever has attracted a variety of criticisms from political, environmental and human rights activists on not achieving the high aims it communicates on a number of topics.
Unilever's stated goals are to decouple growth from the company's environmental impact by
- halving the environmental footprint of its products
- helping 1 billion people improve their health and well-being
- sourcing all of its agricultural raw materials sustainably
- Palm oil
Unilever has been criticised by Greenpeace for causing deforestation, Unilever was targeted in 2008 by Greenpeace UK, 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 publicizing its plan to obtain all of its palm oil from sources that are certified as sustainable by 2015.
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.
On 4 July 2010, Unilever announced that it has secured enough GreenPalm certificates of sustainable palm oil to cover the requirements of its European, Australia, and New Zealand business. GreenPalm is a certificate trading programme, endorsed by the RSPO, which is designed to tackle the environmental and social problems created by the production of palm oil.
- Rainforest Alliance
Unilever has committed to purchase all its tea from sustainable, ethical sources. It has asked the international environmental NGO, Rainforest Alliance, to start by certifying tea farms in Africa.
Lipton and PG Tips will be the first brands to contain certified tea. The company aims to have all Lipton Yellow Label and PG Tips tea bags sold in Western Europe certified by 2010 and all Lipton tea bags sold globally by 2015.
- Animal testing
Unilever states it is committed to the elimination of animal testing, and where it is a legal requirement in some countries, it tries to convince the local authorities to change the law. Some activists[who?] argue that this is little more than an effort to gain good publicity and Unilever continue to use animal experimentation such as the LD50 poisoning test.
Race and advertisements
Hindustan Unilever, had been showing television advertisements for skin-lightening cream, Fair and Lovely, depicting depressed, dark-skinned women, who had been ignored by employers and men, suddenly finding new boyfriends and glamorous careers after the cream had lightened their skin.
The Austrian branch of Unilever (Eskimo) is producing and marketing an ice-cream under the name Mohr im Hemd. "Mohr" (moor), is a colonial German word for African or black people, has a heavily colonialist and racist connotation., "Mohr im Hemd" (moor in the shirt) is a traditional Austrian chocolate speciality which refers to naked, "wild" Africans. Unilever refutes any racist intentions and claims that it has tested the name in broad market studies in Austria without any critical feedback.
Sexism in advertisements
The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood criticized Unilever for the 2007 Axe marketing campaign, which they considered sexist. Unilever's response is that the Axe campaign is intended as a spoof and "not meant to be taken literally".
Unilever has launched the Dove "Real Beauty" marketing campaign, which encouraged women to reject the underfed and hyper-sexualized images of modern advertising in 2007.
In 2003 Hindustan Unilever was accused of making use of child labour, among others.
- Morris Tabaksblat, a previous CEO
- Gorton's of Gloucester, a former subsidiary
- Palm Line, a former shipping company
- Unilever Australasia
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- ^ Unilever: About us
- ^ Brtish Pathe News, Wealth of the World, 1950
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- ^ Id.
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