Long-Term Strategy vs. Short-Term ROI: The Unilever Case

The latest chapter in the unfolding Unilever saga has been published. An update in the Financial Times outlines CEO Paul Polman’s tale of pushback against a hostile takeover attempt by Kraft Heinz. It describes a classic struggle of long-term sustainability strategy vs. short-term focus on share price. Kraft Heinz, managed by 3G, a private equity firm, is known for severe cost cutting to produce immediate high returns. Polman, the “flag-bearer” for corporate sustainability, is famed for valuing purpose as much as profit. Even as the Unilever board supported Polman, the sustainability icon/CEO took shareholder-rewarding steps such as raising profit margin targets, launching a stock buyback program, and increasing the company’s dividends. Read Polman’s first-hand account of his executive leadership decisions here.

John Howell, Editorial Director

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