Unilever: Company Profile

Unilever is a huge company making everything from processed foods to laundry detergent.

It is the world's largest manufacturer of sauces and salad dressings and its brands include Hellmann's. Its other top products include Ben & Jerry's ice cream, PG Tips tea and Dove soaps. In addition Unilever also operates tea and palm oil plantations. 

Last updated: June 2016

Annual Revenue$38.93 billion


Other BrandsOver 100 including: Dove, Marmite, Flora, Lynx and Persil.


Company Score3.5 out of 20


Ethical Consumer Best Buy?No


Ethical issues by category

In June 2016 Unilever received a middle rating for its Supply Chain Management from Ethical Consumer.

It scored a rudimentary rating for its supply chain policy, only had rudimentary stakeholder engagement, reasonable auditing & reporting and rudimentary discussion of difficult issues.

An investigation by the BBC in September 2015 found dangerous and degrading living and working conditions on tea plantations which supplied several of Britain's biggest tea companies, including Unilever (which produces PG Tips and Lipton).

The BBC investigation in Assam, north-east India, described workers living in broken houses with terrible sanitation. It was claimed that many families had no toilets and said they have no choice but to use the ground amongst the tea bushes.

Living and working conditions were so bad, and wages so low, that tea workers and their families were left malnourished and vulnerable to fatal illnesses, the report said. There was also a disregard for health and safety, with workers spraying chemicals without protection, and on some estates, child labour being used.

In June 2015 Unilever scored Ethical Consumer's best rating for environmental reporting. The report showed a clear understanding of the company's key environmental impacts and contained more than two quantified future targets. The report was also independently verified by PricewaterhouseCoopers.


In March 2015 the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) published a report called 'Fries, Face Wash, Forests: Scoring America’s Top Brands on Their Palm Oil Commitments.' In the report Unilever received a score of 83.4 (out of 100) and was considered by UCS to have a strong commitment to sourcing palm oil sustainably. The company also scored a best rating from Ethical Consumer for its palm oil rating.


According to the PETA website viewed in April 2015, Unilever was on a list of companies that had not eliminated tests on animals for their entire line of cosmetics and household products.

In 2013 the BUAV released findings of research showing cruel and unnecessary animal tests carried out by some of the world's leading food giants including Unilever. 

Unilever was named by the BUAV for experiments involving Hoodia gordonii, a spiny African shrub (which is already used as a weight management supplement for the treatment of obesity). Rabbits and mice were subjected to a reproductive toxicity test. Pregnant rabbits and mice were force fed extracts of the plant throughout their pregnancy for 25 days. The day before the animals were due to give birth, they and their unborn foetuses were killed and examined.

Unilever was also named in an experiment in which piglets were given an extract of Lipton’s tea to see if it could counter diarrhoea caused by the Ecoli stomach bug. Eight of the month-old animals died, with severe diarrhoea to blame in at least seven of the cases.


In 2015 Unilever was a member of two corporate lobby groups that lobby for free trade at the expense of the environment, animal welfare, human rights or health protection. These were; the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the World Economic Forum.

In-Depth Information

See the Unilever company page for detailed company information, background stories behind the ratings direct from our Corporate Critic database, and 'email the company' tool.

(Company pages are for subscribers only - find out more about subscriptions)