The Unilever logo since 2004
|Type||Dual-listed (Naamloze vennootschap/
Public limited company)
|Traded as||Euronext: UNA, LSE: ULVR, NYSE: UN and NYSE: UL|
|Founder(s)||Antonius Johannes Jurgens, Samuel van den Bergh and William Hulme Lever, 2nd Viscount Leverhulme|
|Key people||Michael Treschow
|Products||Foods, beverages, cleaning agents and personal care products|
|Revenue||€49.8 billion (2013)|
Unilever (Euronext: UNA, LSE: ULVR) is an Anglo–Dutch multinational consumer goods company headquartered in London, England and Rotterdam, Netherlands. Its products include food, beverages, cleaning agents and personal care products. It is the world's third-largest consumer goods company measured by 2012 revenue, after Procter & Gamble and Nestlé. One of the oldest multinational companies, its products are available in 190 countries worldwide.
Unilever owns over 400 brands, but focuses on 14 brands with sales of over 1 billion euros - Axe/Lynx, Dove, Omo, Becel/Flora, Heartbrand ice creams, Hellmann's, Knorr, Lipton, Lux, Magnum, Rama, Rexona, Sunsilk and Surf. It 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. Unilever is organised into four main divisions - Foods, Refreshment (beverages and ice cream), Home Care, and Personal Care. It has research and development facilities in the United Kingdom (2), the Netherlands, China, India and the United States.
Unilever was founded in 1929 by the merger of the British soapmaker Lever Brothers (founded in 1885 by William Hesketh Lever) and the Dutch margarine producer Margarine Unie. During the second half of the 20th century the company increasingly diversified from being a maker of products made of oils and fats, and expanded its operations worldwide. It has made numerous corporate acquisitions, including Lipton (1971), Brooke Bond (1984), Chesebrough-Ponds (1987), Best Foods and Ben & Jerry's (2000); and Alberto-Culver (2010). Unilever divested its speciality chemicals businesses to Imperial Chemical Industries in 1997.
Unilever PLC has a primary listing on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index. 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.
1929 to 2000
Unilever was formed in September 1929 by a merger of the operations of British soapmaker Lever Brothers and Dutch margarine producer Margarine Unie. The merger 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 (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.
In the 1930s, business grew and new ventures were launched in Africa and Latin America. After 1945, Unilever's once successful United States businesses (Lever Brothers and T. J. Lipton) began to decline. As a result, Unilever began to operate a "hands off" policy towards the subsidiaries, and left American management to its own devices.
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 (merged from Chesebrough Manufacturing and Pond's Creams), the maker of Ragú, Pond's, Aqua-Net, Cutex, 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 merge Elida Gibbs and Lever Brothers in its UK operations. It also purchased Helene Curtis, significantly expanding its 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 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, a skyscraper on Park Avenue in New York City.
2000 to 2011
In April 2000, Unilever bought both Ben & Jerry's and Slim Fast for £1.63 billion. Later that year, the company acquired Best Foods for £13.4 billion. The Bestfoods acquisition increased Unilever's scale in foods in America, and added brands such as Knorr and Hellmann's to its portfolio. The transaction was the second largest cash acquisition in world business history. In exchange for European regulatory approval of the deal, Unilever divested itself of such well-known brands as Oxo, Royco and Batchelors.
In 2001, Unilever was split into two divisions: one for Foods and one for Home and Personal Care.
In September 2002, the company sold its specialty oils and fats division, Loders Croklaan, for RM814 million (€218.5 million) to IOI Corporation, a Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia-based oil palm company. As part of the deal, the Loders Croklaan brand will be maintained.
Also in 2002, Unilever sold the Mazola, Argo & Kingsfords, Karo, Golden Griddle, and Henri’s brands, along with several Canadian brands, to ACH Food Companies, an American subsidiary of Associated British Foods.
In May 2007, Unilever became the first large-scale 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.
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. The Sara Lee acquisition was completed on 6 December 2010.
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.
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.
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.
In April 2011, Unilever was fined €104 million by the European Commission for establishing a price-fixing cartel in Europe along with P&G, who was fined €211.2 million, 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.
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.
On 14 October 2011, it was announced that Unilever had agreed to acquire 82% of the Russia-based beauty company Kalina.
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, or approximately €540 million) in cash.
In July 2013, Unilever increased its stake in its Indian unit, Hindustan Unilever, to 67% for around €2.45 billion.
On 12 August 2013, Unilever announced that it had signed an agreement for the sale of its Wish-Bone and Western dressings brands to Pinnacle Foods Inc. for a total cash consideration of approximately US$580 million, subject to regulatory approval.
On 6 September 2013, Unilever entered into a definitive agreement to acquire the premium Australian tea brand T2.
On 16 January 2014, Unilever announced that it had signed a definitive agreement for the sale of its Royal pasta brand in the Philippines to RFM Corporation, one of the biggest diversified food and beverage companies in the Philippines for US $47.8 million.
On 21 February 2014, Unilever announced that it has signed a definitive agreement for the sale of its meat snacks business, Peperami (UK/Ireland) and BIFI (continental Europe) to Jack Link’s, for an undisclosed amount.
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; Connecticut and New Jersey, United States; Bangalore, India; and Shanghai, China. It has subsidiaries in almost 100 countries. Notable Unilever subsidiaries include Hindustan Unilever, in which Unilever holds a 67% controlling share. 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.
Unilever's products include foods, beverages, cleaning agents and personal care products. The company owns more than 400 brands, which are organised into four main categories - Foods, Refreshments, Home Care, and Personal Care.
Unilever's current largest-selling brands include: Axe/Lynx; Ben & Jerry's; Dove; Flora/Becel; Heartbrand; Hellmann's; Knorr; Lipton; Lux/Radox; Omo/Surf; Rexona/Sure; Sunsilk; Toni & Guy; TRESemmé; Magnum and VO5.
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. 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.
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. 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).
Unilever's highest executive body is the Unilever Leadership Executive, which is led by the Chief Executive (currently Paul Polman).
Members of the current Unilever Leadership Executive include:
Unilever's current non-executive directors are:
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. The brand identity was developed around the idea of "adding vitality to life."
Unilever's largest international competitors are Nestlé and Procter & Gamble. 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 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.
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. By 2008, Indonesia was losing 2% of its remaining rainforest each year, having the fastest deforestation rate of any country. The United Nations Environmental Programme stated that palm oil plantations are the leading cause of deforestation in Indonesia.
Furthermore, Indonesia was the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases largely due to the destruction of rainforests in for the palm oil industry, which contributed to 4% of global green house gas emissions. According to Greenpeace, palm oil expansion was taking place with little oversight from central or local government as procedures for environmental impact assessment, land-use planning and ensuring a proper process for development of concessions were neglected. Plantations that were off-limits, by law, for palm oil plantations were being established as well as the illegal use of fire to clear forest areas was commonplace.
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.
In Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), 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.
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.
For years, Unilever purchased paper for its packaging from Asia Pulp & Paper, the third largest paper producer in the world, which was labeled as a “forest criminal” for destroying “precious habitat” in Indonesia’s rainforest. In 2011, when Unilever cancelled its contract with Asia Pulp & Paper, Greenpeace Executive Director Phil Radford commended the company for efforts made towards forest protection, for "taking rainforest conservation seriously."
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.
- Unilever—A Case Study — HBS Working Knowledge
- "Unilever.com". Unilever. Retrieved 2014-02-09.
- http://www.unilever.com/images/ir_Q4-2013-full-announcement_tcm13-380368.pdf. Missing or empty
- "Facts". Unilever. Retrieved 2013-02-10.
- "Unilever buys some Sara Lee businesses for almost $2B". USA Today. 25 September 2009. Retrieved 7 January 2012.
- Operational highlights - At a glance | Sustainable living | Unilever Global
- Unilever R&D Locations, Unilever, viewed 19 december 2013
- "British Pathe News, Wealth of the World, 1950". Britishpathe.com. Retrieved 2013-02-10.
- 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.
- Congo, David van Reybrouck
- "Chronology of A&W Root Beer Canada". Islandnet.com. Retrieved 19 April 2011.
- Collins, Glenn (15 February 1996). "Unilever Agrees to Buy Helene Curtis". New York Times. Retrieved 2013-11-27.
- Jones, Geoffrey (2005). Renewing Unilever: Transformation and Tradition. Oxford University Press. p. 362. ISBN 978-0-19-160842-1.
- "Unilever moots merger of Elida Gibbs and Lever Bros". UK: Marketing Week. Retrieved 2013-11-26. "Unilever is understood to be planning to merge its Elida Gibbs and Lever Brother’s operations after Elida Gibbs relocates its headquarters to Lever House in Kingston, Surrey."
- Jones, Geoffrey (2005). Renewing Unilever: Transformation and Tradition. Oxford University Press. p. 364. ISBN 978-0-19-160842-1.
- Unilever's sustainable agriculture programme[dead link]
- "ACH Foods Company Overview". achfood.com. Retrieved 7 December 2013.
- "ACH Food Companies, Inc. Buys Unilever's Mazola Corn Oil and Associated Brands". prnewswire.com. 23 April 2002. Retrieved 7 December 2013.
- Nicholson, Marcy (25 May 2007). "San Diego Times". Signonsandiego.com. Retrieved 19 April 2011.
- "Unilver: Sustainable Tea". Unilever.com. Retrieved 19 April 2011.[dead link]
- "Unilever press release". Unilever.com. Retrieved 19 April 2011.
- Unilever buys Sara Lee's personal care division for £1.17bn Daily Telegraph, 25 September 2009
- Unilever completes Sara Lee Personal Care & European Laundry acquisition, Unilever, 6 December 2010
- Unilever acquires Diplom-Is operations in Denmark Food Bev, 11 August 2010
- Cargill Acquires Unilever Tomato Business Food Processing, 30 September 2010
- "Unilever to Purchase Alberto Culver for $3.7 Billion". Businessweek. 27 September 2010. Retrieved 19 April 2011.
- Unilever buys Greek Ice Cream Manufacturer Food News, 28 September 2010
- Unilever and Colgate-Palmolive exchange brands Marketing Week, 23 March 2011
- "Unilever and Procter & Gamble in price fixing fine". BBC News. 13 April 2011.
- Unilever Sells Alberto VO5, Rave to Brynwood Wall Street Journal, 24 August 2011
- Unilever to Buy Russia’s Kalina in $694 Million Deal to Aid Emerging Push Bloomberg, 14 October 2011
- "The Maker of Dove Soaps Will Phase Out Exfoliating Plastic Microbeads". Business Insider. 27 December 2012. Retrieved 29 December 2012.
- "Spam maker Hormel pays $700m for Unilever's Skippy peanut butter business". The Telegraph. 3 January 2013. Retrieved 12 January 2013.
- "Skippy peanut butter sold to Spam owner". BBC News. 3 January 2013. Retrieved 12 January 2013.
- Abhishek Takle (4 July 2013). "Unilever raises stake in Indian unit to 67 percent". Reuters.
- "Pinnacle Foods to buy Unilever's Wish-Bone salad dressing business". Reuters. 12 August 2013. Retrieved 8 October 2013.
- "Unilever acquires T2 tea brand". B&T. 10 September 2013. Retrieved 8 October 2013.
- Rushton, Katherine (13 December 2011). "Unilever to shake up £5.1bn global advertising spend". London: The Telegraph. Retrieved 9 January 2012.
- "Unilever to review media buying". Reuters. 13 December 2011. Retrieved 9 January 2012.
- "Unilever Completes TIGI Acquisition". GCI magazine. 14 April 2009.
- "TIGI consumer site".[dead link]
- "Governance of Unilever – 1 January 2012". Unilever. Retrieved 9 April 2012.[dead link]
- "Unilever icons explained". Logodesignlove.com. 2011-12-01. Retrieved 2013-02-10.
- "Unilever case study". Wolff Olins. Retrieved 2013-02-10.
- Sterling, Toby (4 September 2008). "Unilever: Nestle executive to take CEO job". USA Today. Retrieved 9 April 2012.
- "Sustainable Living Plan". Unilever. 15 November 2010.[dead link]
- "Unilever admits toxic dumping: will clean up but not come clean". Greenpeace. Retrieved 2 August 2007.[dead link]
- "Ape protest at Unilever factory". BBC. Retrieved 23 March 2008.
- "Palm Oil: Cooking the Climate". GREENPEACE. Retrieved 9 April 2013.
- "How Unilever Palm Oil Suppliers are Burning Up Borneo". Greenpeace International. Retrieved 10 April 2013.
- "Unilever commits to certified sustainable palm oil | Media centre | Unilever Global". Unilever.com. 29 August 2012. Retrieved 2012-10-26.
- "Manifesto for the Conservation of the Tanoé Swamps Forest". Retrieved 19 July 2008.
- "Unilever reports on first year's progress against ground-breaking sustainable living plan targets". Unilever. Retrieved 23 May 2012.
- "Paper Giant Pledges to Leave the Poor Rainforest Alone. Finally. Asia Pulp & Paper—the notorious destroyer of pristine tiger and orangutan habitat—says it's changing its ways.". Mother Jones. Retrieved 2013-11-27.
- Phil Radford. "Hasbro Turns Over a New Leaf, Steps Up for Rainforests". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2013-11-27.
- "Unilever sustainable tea Part 1: Leapfrogging to mainstream". Retrieved 15 March 2011.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Unilever.|