Unilever's corporate vision – helping people to look good, feel good and get more out of life – shows how clearly the business understands 21st century-consumers and their lives. But the spirit of this mission forms a thread that runs throughout our history.
Helping people get more out of life
The Unilever archives are amongst the most important collections of business records in the world.
In the 1890s, William Hesketh Lever, founder of Lever Bros, wrote down his ideas for Sunlight Soap – his revolutionary new product that helped popularise cleanliness and hygiene in Victorian England. It was 'to make cleanliness commonplace; to lessen work for women; to foster health and contribute to personal attractiveness, that life may be more enjoyable and rewarding for the people who use our products'.
This was long before the phrase 'Corporate Mission' had been invented, but these ideas have stayed at the heart of our business. Even if their language – and the notion of only women doing housework – has become outdated.
In a history that now crosses three centuries, Unilever's success has been influenced by the major events of the day – economic boom, depression, world wars, changing consumer lifestyles and advances in technology. And throughout we've created products that help people get more out of life – cutting the time spent on household chores, improving nutrition, enabling people to enjoy food and take care of their homes, their clothes and themselves.
Balancing profit with responsible corporate behaviour
In the late 19th century the businesses that would later become Unilever were among the most philanthropic of their time. They set up projects to improve the lot of their workers and created products with a positive social impact, making hygiene and personal care commonplace and improving nutrition through adding vitamins to foods that were already daily staples.
Today, Unilever still believes that success means acting with the highest standards of corporate behaviour towards our employees, consumers and the societies and world in which we live. Over the years we've launched or participated in an ever-growing range of initiatives to source sustainable supplies of raw materials, protect environments, support local communities and much more.
Through this timeline you'll see how our brand portfolio has evolved. At the beginning of the 21st century, our Path to Growth strategy focused us on global high-potential brands and our Vitality mission has taken us into a new phase of development. More than ever, our brands are helping people 'feel good, look good and get more out of life' – a sentiment close to Lord Leverhulme's heart over a hundred years ago.
Building on this heritage, our priorities now are inspiring people to take small everyday actions that can add up to a big difference for the world – from laundry brands that help minimise wasted water and packaging to nutritious, easily prepared and affordable meals and snacks.