Skip to content

Celebrating William Lever’s 165th Birthday


Average read time: 3 minutes

Monday 19 September marks 165 years since the birth of William Hesketh Lever

1st Lord Leverhulme 1919

Today (Monday 19 September) marks 165 years since the birth of William Hesketh Lever.

The founder of Lever Brothers, one of the co-founding companies of Unilever, was born in 1851 in Bolton to the son of a wholesale grocer.

In 1885, William became a partner with his brother James Darcy Lever and leased a factory in Warrington to manufacture soap. Sunlight Soap, a revolutionary new product that helped popularise cleanliness and hygiene in Victorian England was first manufactured here.

In1888, William Lever built his Sunlight Soap Factory and model village at Port Sunlight, which offered employees good quality housing, schools and a hospital.

In 1894 Lever Brothers became a public company. 35 years later, the company merged with Margarine Unie, marking the start of Unilever, as we know it today.

William was interested in art, education and finance initiatives that looked to benefit both his employees and society. Not only did he continuously try to improve and innovate his products, he also valued his employees and looked to improve their working life by championing shorter work day, savings plans and health benefits.. William’s legacy of operating his business as an agent of social reform remains at the heart of Unilever to this day. The Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, established in 2010, captures the company’s purpose of making sustainable living commonplace.

Our Brands

We have expanded our portfolio to include more than 400 brands. We make some of the best-known brands in the world, and those brands are present in 98% of households across the UK. Globally our products are used by two billion people every day.

Many of our brands have long-standing social missions. Our 'sustainable living brands', which have integrated sustainability into their purpose and contribute to one or more of the Sustainable Living Plan's goals, are generating more than 50% of Unilever's total growth.

Sustainable living

We launched the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP) in 2010. This outlines how we will achieve our sustainable growth ambition. It is at the heart of our business model, applying to every brand, every market and throughout our value chain – from the raw materials we use in our products, to the amount of electricity and water people consume when using them.

Our vision

Our vision is to grow our business, whilst decoupling our environmental footprint from our growth and increasing our positive social impact.

We work to create a brighter future every day, with brands and services that help people feel good, look good, and get more out of life.

We put the consumer first - then customers, employees, suppliers, and communities.

Our people

Unilever is committed to becoming a truly diverse and inclusive company.

Diversity and inclusion at Unilever is about harnessing the value of different personalities, viewpoints, cultures, races, genders, work styles, mind-sets and all the other differences between us as individuals. The real value is found when employees and leaders embrace these endless differences and channel them into positive business benefits.

We also take our wellbeing very seriously. Our holistic approach to wellbeing, looking at physical, mental, emotional and purposeful wellbeing, will enable each individual in Unilever to realise their own potential, cope with everyday stresses, work productively and make the contribution they want to in all aspects of their lives.

We would like to celebrate 165 years since the birth of William Hesketh Lever, by saying thank you for your legacy.

Back to top