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Unilever Searches for Next CEO


On October 16th, EGG-NEWS posted an article on the succession plans for the CEO of Unilever.  At issue was the policies followed by Paul Polman, the incumbent since since 2009.  The company disappointed investors failing to meet market expectations on both the top and bottom line for fiscal 2016.  Management also came under criticism for rejecting the Kraft Heinz Company bid, valued at $143 billion. Simply repurchasing stock, divesting segments with low margins and introducing cost-saving measures are ameliorative but do not address the basic problem of rising competition experienced by large multinationals from more agile local enterprises. It is now up to the Unilever board under newly appointed chairman Marijin Dekkers to select from either aspirant candidates within the organization or to appoint a disruptive outside candidate.

During the past decade Unilever has been at the forefront of promoting animal welfare issues using its prestige and international reach to make common cause with pro-vegan activist organizations.  The Company has also become embroiled in conflicts relating to GMO technology. The Ben and Jerry’s subsidiary supports mandatory labeling of products containing GMO ingredients, a position supported by Paul Polman during a 2014 visit to the company headquarters in Vermont.  In contrast as a corporate entity, Unilever has opposed legislation at state level to mandate GM-labeling and contributed to the campaign to oppose a California ballot initiative on GM-designation.

It is hoped that the next CEO of Unilever will adopt a more balanced policy towards welfare, GM and environmental issues and recognize that the responsibility of the company is to its shareholders. Management should not base policy on the Company acting as a vehicle for social change or intertwine their personal inclinations with corporate concerns.

(SMS 1,954-17 November 29th 2017.)