Unilever to axe 1,500 jobs as investors’ unrest continues

A growing revolt among Unilever investors has precipitated thousands of job losses as the consumer goods giant seeks to allay criticism that it has lost focus on its core business.

The Domestos bleach, Hellmann’s mayonnaise and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream maker currently employs around 150,000 globally and will slash management roles in the ‘low thousands,’ according to The Guardian, as it seeks to streamline operations.

Unilever has remained tight-lipped on where the axe might fall, but speculation is rife that the retrenchment has been spurred by mounting pressure on chief executive Alan Jope to boost profits after his authority was severely damaged by a spurned £50bn takeover of GSK’s consumer healthcare division, sparking outrage from shareholders and forcing Unilever to beat a humiliating retreat last week.

Refusing to mince his words, fund manager Terry Smith, founder of Fundsmith, likened the abortive takeover to a “near-death experience,” calling management to step up to the plate and redouble their efforts on the core business – or stand aside.

Smith has previously castigated Unilever for falling short of performance targets, calling out the perceived distraction of social good crusades for the erosion of profit margins.

Acknowledging that it must respond with tangible measures, Unilever issued a hastily-written strategy update to address these concerns, pinning its growth hopes on the health, beauty and hygiene sector while promising to shed underperforming sections of its business.

Amid the boardroom machinations, Unilever remains committed to environmental issues, recently adding its signature to a joint letter calling for a UN treaty to tackle plastic pollution.