About Unilever South Africa

South Africa Durban Head Office 120916

A history of continuous innovation

Over two billion people choose a Unilever product globally on any given day, from feeding their family to keeping their homes clean and fresh. Our brands have been part of everyday life in South Africa for more than a century.

Throughout our history, Unilever has been a purpose-driven company and this spirit has shone through in every step of our journey.

It all started back in 1887, when William Lever, the founder of Lever Brothers, registered the Sunlight trademark in South Africa (SA). Undaunted by a crippling drought that prevailed on his first visit, and an as-yet undeveloped economy, Lever saw a manufacturing future for the country and it wasn’t long before the company set up its first South African factory at Maydon Wharf in Durban in 1911.

A force for change

Unilever has always believed in ‘doing well by doing good’ and we are working every day to make the world a little better – perfectly supporting President Cyril Ramaphosa’s inauguration commitment to a new era and “a vista rich with the hues of hope and promise”.

We’re determined to be a catalyst for change that enhances livelihoods and embeds sustainable values, in harmony with our nation’s Ubuntu spirit. We are bringing transformation through innovative business that reduces our environmental footprint, sources raw materials sustainably, invests with social awareness and uses technology responsibly.

We have a purpose that’s changing the game: “To make sustainable living commonplace”, not just globally, but in South Africa. We call this the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, and it sets out to decouple our growth from our environmental footprint, while increasing our positive social impact.

We are improving the health of the planet by nurturing our resources, using innovative technology, and fighting climate change for future generations.

We are contributing to a fairer and more socially inclusive world by advancing human rights, embedding equality, and circulating value fairly.

We believe that Companies with Purpose Last, and as a purpose-led company that is future-fit, we deliver long-term superior value - boosting productivity and speed as part of our digital transformation to a faster, flexible, lower-cost service for our consumers.

We believe that People with Purpose Thrive, and we’ve equipped our purpose-led people to reach their full potential by creating capability through lifelong learning, unlocking capacity for growth, and deepening our culture of pioneering. It’s no accident that we’ve been rated the Number 1 employer in Africa.

Growing numbers of people want to live more sustainably. They, like us, are looking at the impacts of our products across our full value chain. We measure our success by the number that share it with us.

Which is why we’re disrupting ’business as usual’ and serving our consumers and society...

Making Sustainable living commonplace.

Making South Africa and our planet better places.

We’ve worked tirelessly to ensure that our brands deliver our purpose wherever they are used, because when our customers and consumers grow, entire communities grow too.

As the proud employer of 0.28% of the country’s workforce, and manufacturing 95% of our products right here at home, we occupy a unique place in the lives of South Africans and we’re honoured to help them thrive through our products.

Like President Ramaphosa, we believe in a brighter future and a compact in which companies “generate social value and propel human development”. Our R4 billion investment in new and refurbished manufacturing facilities across South Africa demonstrates our confidence in economic growth.

We are preparing young South Africans, eager to apply their minds in the workplace, through our Youth Employability Programme – and our target is to help one million young people in Africa by 2020.

We have already trained 200 000 young job seekers in the last year in South Africa. One hundred Unilever managers are enrolled to serve and mentor our youth. Our internships, learnerships, apprenticeships and bursary schemes all serve to grow youth employability.

Many of the key levers for socio-economic change identified by the President are aligned with projects that Unilever has already embarked on. One of these is the focus on revitalising the township economy by training and employing youth through inclusive growth models with SMMEs and start-ups.

This builds sustainable businesses within the Unilever value chain, creating new local economies and linking people to opportunities in the formal business sector.

The prosperity of township communities is linked to the long-term success of our business and we are actively learning how best to add value, serve the people and utilise our considerable economic footprint to build this prosperity.

We agree with the President that no liberation can be complete, and no nation can be free, until its women are free. At Unilever, we believe that women's empowerment is one of the greatest enablers of human development for economic growth.

By promoting the formal and active participation of women throughout our business, we aim to transform lives, families, communities and the South African economy. This will ensure growth in our markets, brands and business while simultaneously driving positive change in society. We are a gender-balanced management organisation and our Unilever South Africa Executive Board is already made up of 54% women.

Unilever has also committed to empowering five million women across the African continent by 2020.

We believe that Brands with Purpose Grow, and our purpose-led brands are growing fast; improving people’s health, confidence and wellbeing - by tackling some of the most pressing issues, encouraging positive habits and influencing how consumers use our brands.

This is how our brands have built passionate momentum in our consumers, by sharing our purpose and enabling them to make a difference, with confidence, while looking and feeling their best.

This ensures that, whenever you scrub, brush, lick or slurp one of our products, you help do some good by supporting one of our many causes.

Our “Brands with Purpose”, such as Lifebuoy, Domestos and Mentadent, create a brighter future for all, though initiatives such as the National Schools Hygiene and Sanitation programme, in partnership with the Department of Basic Education, which aims to touch 15,000 public primary schools and more than one million learners in the next 5 years.

We promote safety for women in the communities we serve through our Joko Tea programme aimed at reducing gender-based violence.

Our partnership with the Department of Environmental Affairs and Wildlands has created 10 000 “Greenpreneurs” who turn waste into useful products and together, we have planted more than one million trees since 2015.

We support programmes helping the unskilled and unemployed to gain jobs and dignity, such as our OLA Vendor programme, which currently employs close to 3 000 individuals.

President Ramaphosa has invoked the moving lyrics of the revered late Hugh Masekela and the spirit of service expressed in the words Thuma Mina, igniting the #SendMe movement across the country.

We say, “Send Unilever” - where we can share our knowledge and experience for quick action and impact, where we can serve and help to usher in South Africa’s promise of a New Dawn.

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