Article | Economic History Review | February 2005

European Integration and Corporate Restructuring: The Strategy of Unilever c1957-c1990

by Geoffrey Jones and Peter Miskell

Abstract

This article examines the role of the large Anglo-Dutch consumer products company in promoting European integration. It shows that Unilever contributed financially to campaigns to support the creation of the European Union, and its subsequent expansion, despite a corporate policy of not making political contributions. In contrast, the firm struggled to overcome its legacy of decentralized decision-making to build a Europe-wide business. As economic integration and a convergence of consumer preferences changed cost structures and markets, Unilever's competitors including US-owned Procter & Gamble responded more quickly by focusing on fewer brands and seeking to rationalize production. Within Unilever, change was constrained by acute organizational rigidities which arose from vested interests and inherited corporate values.

Keywords: Horizontal Integration; Organizations; Policy; Expansion; Market Transactions; Geographic Location; Restructuring; Competition; Brands and Branding; Production; Capital Structure; Value; Consumer Products Industry; European Union; United States;

Citation:

Jones, Geoffrey, and Peter Miskell. "European Integration and Corporate Restructuring: The Strategy of Unilever c1957-c1990." Economic History Review 58, no. 1 (February 2005): 113–139.