Nov 29, 2018

Paul Polman leaves unique legacy at Unilever

Although it is hard to recall now, Unilever was out of favour with investors when Mr Polman joined in January 2009, hampered by weak growth and a certain complacency that meant it was losing market share in many categories. "Investors should feel comforted that Polman leaves behind a healthier business in 2019 than the one he inherited 10 years prior," said Mark Nichols, European Equities portfolio manager at Columbia Threadneedle Investments, a top-10 shareholder. Unilever's share price performance was given a boost following the aborted Kraft-Heinz bid in 2017, which forced Mr Polman - somewhat reluctantly- to come out with targets that pleased investors. Mr Polman would also want to be judged based on his contribution to making Unilever more sustainable in terms of its raw materials, packaging, and relationship with suppliers. Unilever also claims to have reduced its waste impact by 29 per cent since Mr Polman launched its "Sustainable Living Plan" in 2010, and says it has improved the livelihoods of more than 700,000 smallholder farmers from whom it buys raw materials.

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