Unilever CEO Paul Polman leaves post at short notice

  • Push-out Score suggests push-out forces
  • After 10 years in the position
  • Accolades, praise and thanks for Polman
  • Alan Jope taking over
  • Polman spoke at length and said 142 words

(exechange) — London, United Kingdom/Rotterdam, The Netherlands, November 29, 2018 — Paul Polman, chief executive of Unilever, leaves the position. It is a change at short notice. As announced by Unilever NV in a news release and in a regulatory filing published on Thursday, November 29, 2018, Paulus Gerardus Josephus Maria (Paul) Polman leaves his post as Chief Executive Officer at the British-Dutch transnational consumer goods company after 10 years in the role, effective December 31, 2018.

It is the end of an era.

Polman leaves the company effective in early July.

Paul Polman’s duties will be taken over by Alan W. Jope, currently President, Beauty & Personal Care of Unilever N.V.

A successor to the role of President, Beauty & Personal Care will be announced shortly.

No reason given

In the announcement, Unilever did not explicitly explain the reason for Paul Polman’s imminent move, leaving room for speculation.

Precise information about Paul Polman’s future plans was not immediately available.


Unilever said: “CEO Paul Polman has decided to retire from the company.”

Share price decline

The change follows a decline in Unilever N.V.’s share price of 9 percent since October 2017.

Chaired by Marijn Dekkers

Unilever N.V. is chaired by Marijn Dekkers.

Marijn Dekkers was appointed Chairman of Unilever in April 2016. Before becoming Chairman of Unilever, Dekkers was Chief Executive Officer of Bayer AG in Germany (2010-2016) and Chief Executive Officer of Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. in the USA (2002-2009). He has been the Chairman of Novalis LifeSciences LLC since 2017.

In the position of CEO since 2009

Paul Polman has been CEO of Unilever since January 2009.

He is Chair of the International Chamber of Commerce, a member of the International Business Council of the World Economic Forum, Chair of The B-Team, vice-chair of the UN Global Compact, and a board member of the Consumer Goods Forum.

Until recently he was also Chair of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

Polman’s commitment to long-term, sustainable capitalism is reflected in his position as a member of the Global Board of Directors of Financing Capitalism for the Long-Term (FCLT), whose report ‘Measuring the economic impact of short-termism’ provides evidence that a long-term approach can lead to superior performance for revenue and earnings, investment, market capitalization, and job creation.

Polman has played a significant role first in developing the Sustainable Development Goals, and now in promoting action towards their delivery as a member of the SDG Advocacy Group.

His commitment to the SDGs inspired him and others to establish the Business and Sustainable Development Commission, whose flagship report, ‘Better Business, Better World’, maps the economic prize for companies that align with the Goals.

Polman is also a member of the recently launched Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism Project, and a Counsellor and Chair of the Global Advisory Board of One Young World.

Polman has been on the Board of Dow since 2010 and DowDu Pont since 2017.

In recognition of his contribution to responsible business, Polman has received numerous awards and accolades including the Rainforest Alliance Lifetime Achievement Award (2014), the Oslo Business for Peace Award (2015), the UN Environment Programme’s Champion of the Earth Award (2015) and the Singapore Government Public Service Star (2016).

In 2016, he received France’s Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur, in recognition of his efforts in galvanising business action on sustainability and for his involvement during the historic 2015 UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris.

In 2018, Polman was named an Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) for services to business and received the Treaties of Nijmegen Medal, in recognition of his contribution to building a more sustainable world.

He earned a BBA/BA from the University of Groningen, Netherlands, in 1977 and an MA Economics and MBA finance/international marketing from the University of Cincinnati in 1979.

He has been awarded honorary degrees from a number of Universities, including Northumbria, Liverpool, Groningen, Cincinnati, and an honorary Doctorate of Science from the University of Cranfield.

Polman is married with three children.

In a personal capacity, Polman is Chairman of Perkins School for the Blind International Advisory Board and serves as President of the Kilimanjaro Blind Trust.

Polman will retire as CEO and as a Board member on December 31, 2018.

He will support the transition process in the first half of 2019 and will leave the company in early July.

Push-out Score suggests push-out forces

It is not completely certain what forces eventually triggered Paul Polman’s imminent move.

The Push-out Score™ determined by exechange suggests that push-out forces may have contributed to the change.

Read the full story in the exechange report 49.2018 ($).