It took just a few days after Unilever made public its proposal to move its headquarters to the Netherlands for the company to be faced with its first obstacle.
Iain Richards, head of responsible investment at Columbia Threadneedle and one of the consumer goods company’s biggest shareholders, lambasted Unilever in a rare public statement in March, accusing the maker of Dove soap of not engaging with investors ahead of its decision.
In the months that followed, a parade of shareholders, from well-regarded fund manager Nick Train to big asset management houses Legal & General Investment Management and Aviva Investors, condemned Unilever’s plans in private and in public. The company was forced to ditch its proposal earlier this month.
Unilever’s about-turn was the latest example of how disgruntled shareholders are successfully pushing for change at the companies they invest in, after years of being criticised for not holding businesses to account.