2000 - 2009: Forging new paths

As the challenges facing businesses, the environment and communities grow, Unilever transforms organisationally and strategically to ensure we remain a sustainable business.

Ben & Jerry's Fairtrade Chunky Monkey ice cream ad from 2008

As people’s shopping and purchasing habits start to shift and consumers become more socially, environmentally and civically motivated, Unilever also adopts change, both in the way our business is structured and the way we think. Our Path to Growth strategy leads to more acquisitions and the rationalisation of manufacturing and production sites to form centres of excellence. The One Unilever programme aligns the organisation behind a single strategy, simplifying our business and leveraging our scale more effectively.

We also build on our long history of social purpose by embedding sustainable thinking even further into our day-to-day activities.

In 2002, the Lifebuoy brand launches its hygiene education programme, Swasthya Chetna, which will make a difference to the lives of 120 million people in rural areas of India, while in 2004 we become a founding member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). In 2008, in an effort to help halt deforestation, we announce our commitment to draw all our palm oil from certified sustainable sources by 2015.

As the decade draws to a close, the whole world is experiencing unprecedented economic and environmental uncertainty. The changes Unilever has adopted result in the launch of the Compass strategy in 2009, which prepares us to face the next decade with a truly sustainable business model: to double the size of our business while reducing our environmental impact.



Bestfoods joins Unilever in the second-largest cash acquisition in history. Other acquisitions include Slim-Fast Foods, Ben & Jerry’s and the Amora-Maille culinary business in France.

We launch the Unilever Health Institute – a centre of excellence in nutrition, health and vitality.


By 2001 Unilever has reduced our brands from 1,600 to 900. DiverseyLever, Elizabeth Arden and Unipath are sold.


Our brand portfolio is reshaped and enhanced through acquisitions and the sale of 87 businesses, generating €6.3 billion of sale proceeds.


Unilever Health Institute opens regional centres in Bangkok, Thailand and Accra, Ghana.

Our Nutrition Policy and Nutrition and Health Academy are launched.


The Vitality mission is launched and the new Unilever brand rolled out, including the new logo which represents the diversity of Unilever, our products and our people.


Unilever sells Unilever Cosmetics International (UCI) to Coty Inc of the US. The sale is in line with Unilever’s strategy to focus on core categories.

The Nutrition Enhancement Programme is completed, through which 16,000 products are assessed for levels of trans fats, saturated fats, sodium and sugars, and, where necessary, action is taken.


Antony Burgmans steps down as Chairman after being with the company for over 35 years. Michael Treschow succeeds him as the first independent Chairman of the Boards of Unilever.

New technology helps create Small & Mighty, the first super-concentrated liquid laundry detergent that uses one-third the packaging, one-third the water and one-third of the transport of dilute liquids.


Unilever announces agreements to acquire the Buavita vitality drinks brand in Indonesia and Inmarko, the leading ice cream business in Russia.

Unilever commits to source all of our tea from sustainable, ethical sources, asking the Rainforest Alliance to start auditing our tea suppliers with immediate effect.


We announce the sale of several businesses including our North American laundry business, our edible oil business in Côte d'Ivoire, our interests in local oil palm plantations, Palmci and PHCI, and the Bertolli olive oil and vinegar business to Grupo SOS.

We commit to move to sustainable palm oil sourcing by 2015, purchasing our first batch of certified sustainable palm oil in November.

For the tenth year running, Unilever is named foods sector leader in the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices – the only company ever to achieve that accolade.


Paul Polman takes over as Chief Executive Officer on 1 January, succeeding Patrick Cescau, who retires after 35 years of service to the company.

Unilever purchases 185,000 tonnes of sustainable palm oil via GreenPalm certificates, accounting for around 15% of its total needs.

Around 80% of Lipton Yellow Label and PG Tips tea bags sold in Western Europe are sourced from certified farms. Rainforest Alliance Certified tea also becomes available in the US, Japan and Australia.

Nearly 17 million school meals are delivered to 80,000 children through our partnership with the World Food Programme.

Towards the end of the year, Unilever launches our renewed vision: to double the size of our business while reducing our overall impact on the environment.

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