29 September, 2009Factory Site Visit and ReportCompany OverviewThe history of Unilever goes back to the 1800s. William Hesketh Lever was the first person to brand soap with a name and wrap it before selling it to the public. The soap was called Sunlight Soap. In the late 1880s the Lever brothers imported the soap from UK to New Zealand. In the year 1899 Lever Brothers began soap production in at Balmain in Sydney, followed by the beginning of production in New Zealand in 1919. In the years that followed, the world saw considerable expansion of Unilever across the world, including Australia, New Zealand and Asia.
In a history that now encompasses three centuries, Unilever’s success has been subjective to the major events that occurred, namely, economic boom, depression, world wars, changing trends and consumer lifestyles and various technological advancements. Their aim has been to create products that help people get much more from life, reducing the time spent on household chores, improving nutrition, enabling people to enjoy food, pushing them to take better care of their nutrition and health and in essence enabling them to take good care of themselves (Unilever Australasia, 2009).
Unilever’s mission is to “Add Vitality to Life” (Unilever Fact Sheet, 2009). Their primary aim is to meet people’s everyday needs for nutrition, hygiene and personal care with brands that make people feel and look good and get more out of life. Their strength lies in the fact that they share deep roots in local cultures and markets around the world. These roots give rise to stronger relationships with customers from across cultures, across the world.
Possession of local roots on a global scale is what gives the company an edge and makes them a truly multi-local multinational organization. Their long term success, spanning three centuries is attributed to their commitment to outstanding standards of performance and increased productivity. Their success can also be attributed to high standards of corporate behaviour towards everyone they work with, the communities they interact with and the environment they influence. Unilever strives towards creating long-term value for their shareholders, their people and their businesses. Legal Structure and ManagementUnilever functions as a single business entity.
NV and PLC are two parent companies of the Unilever Group and these two companies have separate legal identities and separate stock exchange listings for their shares. Beneath these two parent companies a larger number of operating companies are active across many countries. To guarantee unity of governance as well as management, both companies have the same set of directors and are linked by various other agreements. The Equalization Agreement standardizes the mutual rights of the two sets of shareholders together with dividends. This ensures a one-for-one equivalence between the shares.
Unilever owns more than 400 brands as a by product of acquisitions although the company focuses on what it terms as the billion dollar brands. The billion dollar brands include 13 brands each achieving annual sales of over €1 billion. It is to be noted here that Unilever’s 25 brands alone account for more than 70% of the company’s sales. The brands fall into two major categories, namely Food and Beverages and Home and Personal Care. As far as management of the company is concerned, category presidents for Food, Home and Personal Care products are responsible for category strategies, brand development and innovation.
Regional Presidents are given the responsibility of managing the business, setting up brands and innovations effectively and thus winning over customers and retaining existing customers. They are supported by the Finance and HR departments.