Unilever splits Chairman, CEO roles in India as calls mount for greater health focus

INDIA – Unilever’s subsidiary in India, Hindustan Unilever, has separated the positions of chairman of the board and the chief executive officer & managing director (CEO & MD), effective March 31. 

In the new management framework, Nitin Paranjpe, currently chief operating officer of Unilever, will ascend to the role  non-executive chairman of the company while Sanjiv Mehta will continue as CEO & MD. 

HUL in a statement revealed that the appointment of Paranjpe is “subject to the approval of the shareholders, which the company will seek as per applicable regulations.” 

Paranjpe is also expected to take on a new role as chief transformation officer & chief people officer, leading the business transformation and heading the HR function for Unilever effective April 2022.  

Sanjiv Mehta said: “We welcome Nitin back to HUL as the non-executive chairman. He brings in huge knowledge and experience which will enrich the deliberations and add value to the board.” 

Mehta also thanked the board for their support rendered to him during his tenure and added: “It has been an honour to have led the HUL board over the past few years.” 

This move by HUL comes despite the capital market regulator, Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), removing the mandatory requirement for listed companies to split the position of chairperson and CEO & MD positions. 

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SEBI had earlier asked listed entities to split the roles of chairperson and MD before the April 2022 deadline.  

Progress has however been slow with only 54% of the top 500 listed companies having complied as of December 31, 2021.  

Noting the lack of progress, the Indian market regulator changed its stance and made splitting of the roles voluntary to enable the companies to plan for a smoother transition. 

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Calls mount on Unilever to overhaul health performance 

Meanwhile, in the UK, calls continue to mount on the consumer goods giant to focus more on health. 

The National Employment Savings Trust (Nest), one of the UK’s largest pension funds, is the latest investor of the company to join the campaign to push consumer goods giant Unilever 

Nest said that it will back a resolution for the firm to set more ambitious health targets on its food and drink products, which include Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, Marmite and Hellman’s mayonnaise.  

Campaign group ShareAction which is coordinating the resolution, has gained enough backing from shareholders to take the resolution to Unilever’s board at its annual meeting in May. 

Nest bosses said the firm wanted Unilever to lay out what it was doing to promote healthy products to consumers. 

Diandra Soobiah, head of responsible investment at Nest, said: “Unilever was identified as one of those companies that could do more around healthy eating.” 

The calls from Next come after a turbulent month for Unilever after it was revealed the firm had made three rebuffed bids for GlaxoSmithKline’s consumer healthcare arm last year. 

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