First name: Robert
Last name: Candelino
Job title: CEO
Organization: Unilever Thailand and Inland ASEAN
Program: Bachelor of Commerce
After graduating from the bachelor of commerce program in 1997, Rob joined Unilever as an intern. After his internship, he was hired as a permanent employee and has since held several leadership roles over the last 27 years with the organization. Throughout his career, Rob has held the values of sustainability and empowerment every step of the way. Today, he leads several sustainability initiatives at Unilever and is committed to improving the lives of people across the world.
We spoke with Rob to learn more about his role, his career, his BComm journey, and his memories from his time at the University of Guelph.
What are your responsibilities within this role?
I have the great privilege of leading Unilever’s operations across seven of the most diverse and dynamic countries in the world. In Thailand, for example, Unilever has been in operations for eighty-seven years and is one of the most iconic and successful companies in the country. This gives me a unique opportunity to leverage our platform to help make a real, positive impact on the country, our people and the way businesses conduct themselves. Our Purpose in Thailand is to “Improve the lives of every Thai, every day”. Effectively, that means that every Thai is my boss and I come to work every day to serve them better.
What has your career looked like since graduation?
After graduating from the University of Guelph in 1997, I joined Unilever as an intern. I was hired as a permanent employee after my internship where I then spent six years in Toronto in both marketing and sales roles. I then moved to Chicago for two years to work in our global Haircare group.
Following that, I spent five years in the UK at our global head office where I work in our Global Detergents operations leading global brands and innovations across most of the developing world. From there I returned to the USA to work for seven years leading a number of our businesses in our Beauty and Personal Care Division. After my time in New York, I moved to Asia to lead incredible businesses in South East Asia. This fulfilled a lifelong dream for me to live, work, learn, and lead in one of the most exhilarating parts of the world.
Under your guidance, has Unilver implemented any sustainability and/or community engagement initiatives?
I am proud to say yes. In fact, it is expected of all Unilever employees to uphold the company’s world-leading commitments on sustainability. For example, in the US I led the Dove brand for a number of years, which meant I helped organize and fund initiatives to help young people see beauty as a source of confidence, not anxiety. It was also in that role when we introduced our Dove Men+Care brand, which has advocated for a new, more modern, and accurate depiction of men in society. When I worked in Detergents in the UK, I was asked to lead the project which introduced concentrated liquid detergents across the developing world – from China to SEA to Africa to Latin America. This resulted in a massive reduction of plastic, water, CO2, and surfactant usage in numerous countries around the world.
In my current role, I lead our sustainability initiatives personally. Specifically, I am most passionate about reducing income equality and reducing plastic waste – two of the most gripping issues facing society in Thailand. While we have made great progress and implemented numerous programs to help, sadly we are a far way off from fixing these permanently, which is why I want and need to be deeply involved.
How did the UofG BComm program give you the tools/knowledge or start to pursue your career? Are there any particular skills or courses that come to mind?
Truthfully, the thing Guelph gave me, more than anything, was an identity and a sense of confidence. I studied Housing and Real Estate Management, so it isn’t exactly applicable to my career. What was applicable, however, is how the University and the broader Guelph community adopted me as one of their own. I made Guelph my home for many years. I worked there through school and in the summers and I served in student government. I learned about people and different cultures and learned about tolerance and inclusivity. I learned how to have fun and about the value of life-long friendships. Ultimately, I learned that education is indeed what you learn in school, but it also provides an important holistic experience. More than anything, the U of G taught me what it meant to be myself and to be comfortable with that.
What are your favourite memories of being a student at UofG?
There are almost too many to mention! I loved my time at Guelph and I always knew I loved it, but I didn’t truly realize it until my nephew enrolled at the U of G a few years ago. I took him on his first visit and I brought my then six-year-old son. We walked the campus and I bored them to tears with the stories from the Bullring, late-night studies at the library, or eating the best chicken wings on earth at Gryphs. I went on about the great food at Creelman Hall and how Johnston Green became one of my favorite few acres of grass in the world. On the way home my son turned to me and said “Papa, you seemed so happy when we were walking around the campus. You must have really had fun there.” I smiled and told him it was the best years of my life…..until he was born of course!
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