Jan Zijderveld worked all over the world for Unilever and is now based in London as CEO of Avon. Next month he’ll be in Hamilton to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Waikato.
Mr Zijderveld was born in The Netherlands, went to school in Kerikeri, and graduated from Waikato with a Bachelor of Management Studies.
He started with Unilever in New Zealand as a brand manager, then moved to Australia, The Netherlands for five years, and to Italy where he took over directorship of Unilever’s European Olive Oil category. From there he worked in Stockholm and in Dubai where he became chairman of Unilever’s Middle East and North Africa-based operations. A year later he was in Singapore as Executive Vice-President of Unilever South East Asia.
He was soon appointed President, Europe and part of the leadership executive.
Mr Zijderveld was responsible for Unilever's largest operating business, encompassing 34 countries and 25,000 employees. As president of the company’s largest geographical cluster he re-energised the business and built a more integrated dynamic team, rejuvenating Unilever’s headquarters in Rotterdam and turning it into the largest marketing hub in The Netherlands.
He is credited with stabilising the European business and returning it to growth and improved profitability, following several years of decline.
His success over the years has been attributed to his management style that focused on achieving maximum results, yet remained highly people-oriented.
He says being able to make an impact and a difference in all the places he visits is such a privilege. “I really enjoy the challenge being a leader offers, not just in one culture.”
At Avon, Mr Zijderveld is responsible for driving new long-term growth initiatives, developing earning opportunities for women, and advancing Avon as the world’s premier direct seller of quality beauty products.
Over the years he has maintained his links with the University of Waikato, participating in seminars when visiting New Zealand and hosting university staff in Singapore and Europe.
The University of Waikato Distinguished Alumni Awards are being held on August 24 at Claudelands. Mr Zijderveld will be joined by four other awardees – Dame Annette King, Oxford Professor Tom Higham, Psychologist Dr Sarah Calvert, and QC Miriam Dean CNZM.
Jan Zijderveld will discuss his career journey at a business lunch from 12.30 - 1.30 on Friday 24 August at the Hamilton campus. Please register your interest in attending.