Jan Zijderveld

Jan Zijderveld


As President of Europe – Unilever’s largest geographical cluster - and a member of Unilever’s Executive Committee (since 2011), Jan has brought the business back to growth in a tough deflationary economic context. He rejuvenated and re-energised the European Headquarters in Rotterdam and turned it into the largest marketing hub in the Netherlands. With 64 nationalities, the Weena hub is recognized as a dynamic marketing & innovation powerhouse for Europe, turning sustainability into business opportunities day after day. It is part of his strategy to reinvent Unilever in a dramatically changing consumer and retailer landscape, where doing business as usual is no longer an option. An important factor, if not the most important factor underlying this success, is his commitment to investing into talent, connected teams, and resilience. Under Jan’s leadership, Unilever has achieved not only the number 3 most favoured employer position (after Google and Apple) on LinkedIn, but also has been chosen as number 1 employer of choice in 6 markets. Driven by his strong conviction that business can support Europe in making the needed transition from value destruction to value creation, Jan actively contributes to policy development as vice chair of the Branded Goods Organisation AIM and board member of FoodDrinkEurope. He is also on the board of Unilever’s Lipton ice tea joint venture with Pepsi. 

Born in 1964 in the Netherlands, Jan emigrated to New Zealand (NZ) at the age of 15 with his parents. Graduating from the University of Waikato (NZ) with a General Management degree in 1987, he joined the marketing department of Unilever in Wellington (NZ) as a Brand Manager. During this time he also was involved in national politics.  

Since then Jan’s career has become truly global operating in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Australasia & Europe, and in every category of Unilever’s business. He not only relaunched the Bertolli brand leveraging the Italian kitchen globally; but also turned around, restructured and brought the Nordic ice-cream business from decline to growth. As Chairman in the Middle East & North Africa, he drove the business to a historically high growth rate, managed joint ventures and embedded a more professional operations culture into the company and industry at large as he was key to establishing the GCC Advertiser Association in the region to improve media standards. In 2008 as Executive Vice president Unilever South East Asia and Australasia, one of Unilever’s powerhouse regions, Jan doubled the organic growth rate, developed new core capabilities and improved execution like developing Perfect Store - a bespoke customer development programme.  At this time Jan was also a member of the Singapore government’s Future Strategy Group to look at future growth opportunities for the country, as well as a board member for the Singapore Management University. 

As part of his responsibilities, he also served as non-exec Chairman of Unilever’s Indonesian business, a listed company on the Indonesian stock exchange with a market capitalization in excess of 10 billion. One of Unilever’s iconic companies, the Indonesian business was in this time awarded as the best managed large cap and most admired company in Asia.

Jan has contributed to several management books and articles, including more recently an opinion piece on “Reinventing growth in Europe: Time for business unusual”.