The Leverhulme Trust was established in 1925 with a bequest from the will of Lord Leverhulme in the form of shares in his company, Lever Brothers (which in 1930 merged with Margarine Unie to form Unilever). Unilever is funding independent research to investigate Lever and his business operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Solomon Islands at the beginning of the twentieth century, where there is evidence of the illegal use of forced labour and other mistreatments. Recognising the legacy we share with Unilever, the Leverhulme Trust is engaging fully with the research and the findings emerging from it.
An initial scoping survey available here has summarised what is already in the public domain regarding the Lever Brothers’ activities in the DRC and the Solomon Islands. This scoping survey was written by Dr Josephine Tierney at the University of Liverpool, overseen by the renowned academic, Professor Charles Forsdick, and by a panel of independent experts administered by the Royal African Society.
The scoping survey documents the highly distressing labour practices on the DRC and Solomon Island plantations owned by Lever, including mistreatment, forced labour and abusive practices. The Trust deeply regrets that so many individuals suffered much in these operations.
The scoping survey has also identified a number of important questions that the research will attempt to answer. The final report will be published in full and is expected to be completed in October 2023.