Unilever is a multi-national corporation, formed of Anglo-Dutch parentage, that owns many of the world's consumer product brands in foods, beverages, cleaning agents and personal care products. Unilever employs nearly 180,000 people  and had a worldwide revenue of almost €40 billion, or just over US$50 billion, in 2005.
Unilever has two parent companies: Unilever NV in Rotterdam, and Unilever PLC in London. This arrangement is similar to that of Reed Elsevier, and that of Royal Dutch Shell prior to their unified structure. Both Unilever companies have the same directors and effectively operate as a single business. The current non-executive Chairman of Unilever N.V. and PLC is Michael Treschow while Patrick Cescau is Group Chief Executive. The company is widely listed on the world's stock exchanges.
Unilever's major competitors include Procter & Gamble, Nestlé, Kraft Foods, Mars Incorporated, and Reckitt Benckiser.
Unilever was created in 1930 by the merger of British soapmaker Lever Brothers and Dutch margarine producer Margarine Unie, a logical merger as palm oil was a major raw material for both margarines and soaps and could be imported more efficiently in larger quantities.
In the 1930s, the business of Unilever grew and new ventures were launched in Latin America. In 1972, Unilever purchased A&W Restaurants A&W_(Canada) Canadian division but sold its shares through a management buyout to former A&W Food Services of Canada CEO Jeffrey Mooney in July 1995 . By 1980, soap and edible fats contributed just 40% of profits, compared with an original 90%. In 1984 the company bought the brands Brooke Bond (maker of PG Tips tea), Fabergé and Elizabeth Arden, but the latter was later sold (in 2000) to FFI Fragrances.
Unilever acquired Chesebrough-Ponds, the maker of Ragú, Pond's, and Vaseline, in 1987, which strengthened its position in the world skin care market. In 2000, the company absorbed the American business Best Foods, strengthening its presence in North America and extending its portfolio of foods brands. In a single day in April 2000, it bought, ironically, both Ben & Jerry's, known for its calorie-rich ice creams, and Slim Fast.
Today the company is fully multinational with operating companies and factories on every continent and research laboratories at Colworth and Port Sunlight in England; Vlaardingen in the Netherlands; Trumbull, Connecticut, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey in the United States; Bangalore in India (see also Hindustan Unilever Limited); Pakistan; and Shanghai in China. Its European IT infrastructure headquarters is based in Unity House, Ewloe in Flintshire, Wales.
The US division continued to carry the Lever Brothers name until the 1990s, when it adopted the parent company's moniker. The American unit is now headquartered in New Jersey, and no longer maintains a presence at Lever House, the iconic skyscraper on Park Avenue in New York City.
Unilever has recently started a five year vitality company initiative in which it began to converge the marketing of disparate arms of their business, including personal care, dieting, and consumables into an umbrella function displaying the breadth of their contributions to personal vitality. This plan has been implemented because of the lack of brand recognition that Unilever wields, even despite its ubiquitous presence. In 2006, it concluded with the sell off of the global frozen foods division; excluding the ICF ice cream business, and the Italian frozen vegetables businesses.
The company now publicly professes to take a strong stance on sustainability, as stated publicly by its CEO, Patrick Cescau.. The company started a sustainable agriculture programme in 1998..
In May 2007, it became the first tea company to commit to sourcing all its tea in sustainable manner. To that extent, the company asked the Rainforest Alliance, an international environmental NGO to start certifying tea estates in East Africa.
Unilever's highest executive body is called the Unilever Executive which is led by the Group Chief Executive (Patrick Cescau). It is responsible for delivering profit and growth across the company.
Members of the Unilever Executive include:
Patrick Cescau (Group Chief Executive)
Kees van der Graaf (President Europe)
Ralph Kugler (President Home and Personal Care)
Harish Manwani (President Asia and Africa)
Jim Lawrence (Chief Financial Officer)
Sandy Ogg (Chief HR Officer)
Michael B. Polk (President Americas)
Executive and non-executive directorsat Unilever are:
Professor Geneviève Berger
Charles E Golden
Dr Byron E Grote
N. R. Narayana Murthy
Lord Simon of Highbury CBE
Kees J Storm
Jeroen van der Veer
Unilever is currently focusing on 400 brands in a bid to increase its profits by reducing the variety, and therefore cost, of advertising and packaging.
After some recent purges, Unilever now owns about 400 brands, many of them local that can only be found in certain countries. The brands fall almost entirely into two categories: Food and Beverages, and Home and Personal Care.
Food and beverages
Ades or Adez - soya-based drinks
Alsa - desserts and syrups
Amora - French mayonnaise and dressings
Annapurna - salt and wheat flour (India)
Becel - also known as Flora/Promise; health-aware: margarine, spreads, cooking oil, milk, fermented milk
Ben and Jerry's - ice cream
Best Foods - mayonnaise, sandwich spreads, peanut butter and salad dressings
Bertolli - pasta sauces and olive oil (ambient/chilled & frozen)
Bifi - a mini salami
Blue Band - Family-aware: margarine, bread, cream alternatives
Elmlea - Pourable cream available in different varieties (UK)
Findus - frozen foods (Italy and UK)
Flora- margarine, light butter, jams
Gallo - olive oil
"Heartbrand" - ice cream (umbrella logo, see below for national brands)
Hellmann's - mayonnaise
I Can't Believe It's Not Butter - margarine spread
Imperial Margarine - margarine
Jif Lemon & Lime Juice
Karo - syrups
Kissan - Ketchups Squashes and Jams (India)
Klondike - Ice cream sandwiches
Knorr (Knorr-Suiza in Argentina) - sauces, stock cubes, ready-meals, meal kits, ready-soups, frozen food range
Lady's Choice - mayonnaise, peanut butter and sandwich spreads (Philippines)
Lan-Choo - tea (Australia/New Zealand)
Lao Cai Seasoning
Lawry's and Adolph's
Lipton - tea
Lipton Ice Tea - ready-to-drink tea (partnership with PepsiCo)
Maille - French mustard
Maizena - corn starch
Mazola - edible oils
Marmite - yeast extract spread (except in Australia and New Zealand)
Mc' Collins - tea (Peru)
Mrs. Filbert's - margarine (USA)
Paddle pop - Icecream (Australia)
Pfanni - Bavarian potato mixes
PG Tips - tea (UK)
Phase - cooking oil
Planta - margarine
Popsicle - Frozen treats
Pot Noodle - cup noodles
Promise - see Becel/Flora
Ragú - pasta sauces
Rama - margarine
Royal - pastas (Philippines)
Red Rose Tea - tea (Canada)
Sana - Margarine (Turkey)
Saga - tea (Poland)
Scottish Blend - tea
Skippy - peanut butter
Slim·Fast - diet products
Sunlight Soap (Africa)
Streets (ice cream) (Australia)
Turun sinappi - mustard (Finland/Sweden)
Unilever Foodsolutions - professional markets (food service)
Unox - soups, smoked sausages
Vaqueiro - cooking margarine, cooking oil
Wish-Bone salad dressing
Unilever is the world's biggest ice cream manufacturer, with an annual turnover of €5 billion. Except for Breyers and Ben & Jerry's, all its ice cream business is done under the "Heartbrand" brand umbrella, so called because of its heart-shaped logo. Unilever currently operates eleven ice cream factories in Europe; the biggest include factories at Heppenheim in Germany, Caivano in Italy, St. Dizier in France and Gloucester in the United Kingdom.
The Heartbrand was launched in 1999 (and slightly modified in 2002) as an effort to increase international brand awareness and promote cross-border synergies in manufacturing and marketing ("centralisation"). It is present in more than 40 countries. Although the logo is common worldwide, each country retained the local brand so as to keep the familiarity built over the years.
In 2005, Glidat Strauss received special permission from Unilever to export their brand of ice cream to the United States because of the strict kosher certification the products in Israel have. Under terms of the agreement, Strauss ice cream and krembo may be sold only in kosher supermarkets and import shops. It is distributed in North America by Dairy Delight, a subsidiary of Norman's Dairy.
Streets - Australia, New Zealand (slogan 'Nothing Beats Streets')
Tio Rico - Venezuela
Wall's - United Kingdom (Great Britain), Indonesia, Pakistan, and other parts of Asia
Wall's HB - United Kingdom (Northern Ireland)
Prior to the heart logo, each country could choose its own logo, although the most common one consisted of a blue circle with the local brand's name over a background of red and white stripes; second most common old logo, used by Wall's in the UK and other countries, was a yellow logo with Wall's in blue text.
Unilever generally manufactures the same ice-cream with the same names, with rare occasions of regional availability, under different brands. Some of these ice-creams include Carte D'Or, Cornetto, Magnum, Solero and Viennetta.
Home and personal care brands
Ala - laundry detergent (Argentina-Brazil)
All - laundry detergent
Axe - deodorant (Lynx in the UK, Ireland and Australia)
Baba (East Europe)
Cif - cleaning
Clear - anti- dandruff shampoo (Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Pakistan)
Close-Up - Toothpaste
[[Cream Silk - conditioner (Philippines)
Dove - skin, hair, and deodorant
Finesse - shampoo and conditioner (sold in 2006 to Lornamead Brands, Inc.)
Good Morning (Soap Egypt)
Impulse - deodorant
Lifebuoy (Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Indonesia)
Linic - dandruff shampoo
Lyso Form - home care (Italy)
Lux - women's soap, shower gel, and lotions (Caress in the US)
Minerva - laundry and dishwasher detergents (Brazil)
Mist (Soap Egypt)
Pepsodent - dental
Salon Selectives - shampoo and conditioner (Sold in 2007 to River West Brands, Inc.)
Sedal (known in Brazil as Seda) shampoo and conditioner
Signal (dental care)
Skip - laundry detergent
Snuggle - fabric softner
Sun - dishwasher
Sunsilk - shampoo and conditioner
Omo - laundry detergent
Surf - laundry detergent
Thermasilk - shampoo and conditioner
Valentino perfumes (Sold to P&G Beauty in 2004)
Vaseline body lotion, shower gel, deodorant (Vasenol in Portugal, Brazil, Italy and Spain)
Unilever is well known for memorable advertising around the globe like;
Lynx/Axe click advert with Ben Affleck
PG Tips Monkey and Al
Knorr Chicken Tonight, ' I feel like chicken tonight'
Flora London Marathon
Knorr global brand
Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, including Evolution
Calve Pindakaas (peanut butter) in Holland
Comfort Pure recommended by mothercare
Clear Anti-Dandruff shampoo and conditioner with Rain (entertainer)
Morris Tabaksblat, a previous CEO
Gorton's of Gloucester, a former subsidiary
Palm Line, a former shipping company
Unilever's status as a large multinational has attracted a variety of criticisms from political activists . For example, it has been criticised for causing environmental pollution by Greenpeace , for testing products on animals by PETA, and for making use of child labour , among others.
According to the Telegraph, Hindustan Unilever, was forced to withdraw television advertisements for its women's skin-lightening cream, Fair and Lovely. Advertisements depicted depressed, dark-skinned women, who had been ignored by employers and men, suddenly finding new boyfriends and glamorous careers after the cream had lightened their skin.
The band Chumbawamba has a song critical of Unilever, simply named after the company.
The most recent criticism is the Axe/Dove controversy.
Main article: Unilever, Axe/Dove controversy
There has been widespread criticism of Unilever by political advocates concerning the mixed messages being sent by the Axe marketing campaign (sexist) and the Dove marketing campaign (caring) 
Unilever's response is that the Axe campaign is intended as a spoof of 'the mating game' and not meant to be taken literally."