Global consumer goods giant Unilever on Friday opened the doors of its newest leadership development facility, Four Acres Singapore.
The first outside of Britain, the sprawling 2.3 hectare complex is worth 50 million euros, a clear indication of the investment and commitment that Unilever has for Singapore and the rest of Asia, which currently accounts for more than 55 per cent of the firm’s global revenues.
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Unilever chief executive officer Paul Polman opened the facility with Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) chairman Leo Yip, JTC Corporation CEO Png Cheong Boon, and Ascendas president and CEO Manohar Khiatani.
Speaking at the launch, Mr Lee noted that the campus was Singapore’s first corporate university campus of this scale.
“Four Acres is latest example of long and excellent partnership between Unilever and Singapore. Unilever started in Singapore over 50 years ago, selling detergent and edible fats… it progressively upgraded its operations here, and linked Singapore with its global network of businesses and services. Singapore is today one of Unilever’s global operations hubs, and its regional business headquarters for Southeast Asia and Australasia,” said Mr Lee.
Polman, who flew in for the event, added that Singapore is the logical choice for Unilever’s new learning and talent development centre due to its key operational role in the market and its place as the company’s global operations office.
He said, “Singapore sits at the nexus of the developed and emerging world. It is a leading hub for leadership and innovation, and a gateway to the rapidly growing Asian economies. When our future leaders come here, whichever part of the world they come from, we know they will gain exposure to new insights and perspectives.”
The plan for Four Acres Singapore is similar to that of Four Acres London, a campus that houses talents and trains them to be top leaders in the company. This time, though, the leaders-to-be will become more attuned to the environment and the high-growth developing and emerging markets as Unilever plans to double the size of its business while halving its environmental footprint and increasing its positive social impact.
According to Polman: “Four Acres London has set the standard in leadership development since it was established over 60 years ago, underpinning our commitment to nurturing world class talent. The launch of Four Acres Singapore will continue this tradition.”
World-class institutions such as the Harvard Business School, INSEAD and Singapore Management University are some of the partners that helped develop the campus’s academic programme. The corporate univerrsity will conduct more than half of all of Unilever’s leadership development programmes.
Four Acres Singapore, complete with amphitheatre and traditional Singaporean black and white bungalows for on-site accommodations, will be able to raise Unilever’s training capacity to 2,800 people yearly across both of its campus locations.
The company - known for brands like Axe, Knorr, Dove and Ponds - has 173,000 employees in over 190 countries.
“The launch of Four Acres Singapore provides the opportunity to take leadership development – in the service of both Unilever and the communities where we operate – to a whole new level,” Polman said. “In an increasingly volatile and uncertain world, a new type of leader is being called for – both in Unilever and society as a whole. These leaders must be guided by values and understand the responsibility of leadership for the 21st century.”
Unilever, also on Friday, was bestowed the prestigious Distinguished Partner in Progress award by Prime Minister Lee for the company’s significant contributions to Singapore’s economic growth and the betterment of the country’s social interests.