Global Faculty Member Dirk Middelschule now Global VP General Counsel Competition at Unilever

Mar 1 2018

Dirk Middelschulte, long-time global faculty member and lecturer at the Brussels competition law module, joined Unilever as Global VP General Counsel Competition in November 2017.

A German-trained lawyer with a doctorate in EU state aid and public procurement law, Dirk has worked in private practice and in-house notably in the areas of IP, competition law, regulatory, corporate governance and compliance. Corporate in-house counsel since 2006, he headed Deutsche Bahn group‘s antitrust advice & compliance team before joining Danone in Paris as corporate compliance director. Based in Brussels, he now has the global responsibility for competition law in Unilever.

We took the opportunity to ask Dirk a few questions:

You have been with the Executive M.B.L.-HSG for many years. What is it you like most about being part of the global faculty of the Executive M.B.L.-HSG?

Definitely the interactions with the students! Most of them are advanced in their careers and have busy professional and private lives but they take the time to do the Executive M.B.L.-HSG. This requires strong dedication and willingness to tackle complex new subjects, on top of all the other commitments they have. In short, the E.M.B.L. students have made the move out of their comfort zones and to walk the extra mile - and you can tell during the classes: open-minded discussions, a fascinating range of perspectives and not least a readiness to challenge the lecturers. These students are senior people in their jobs and they dare to think out of the box and ask the tough questions.

What do you like most about your new role as Global General Counsel Competition at Unilever?

Unilever is a truly global company. 75 % of the turnover is generated outside Europe. The strongest growth is taking place in emerging and developing economies. A fascinating environment for a competition lawyer. Authorities in Indonesia, South Africa or Brazil apply Competition laws that might sound similar to those that we have in the EU quite differently, which always forces you to question your own preconceptions. As an employee of Unilever, I admire the commitment to social responsibility - I know, more and more companies are championing social objectives but even the FT or the Economist appreciate that Unilever means it and makes it happen. And by the way, a credible commitment to sustainable business ethics makes your role in a compliance function, like mine, much easier.

Considering Unilever owns over 400 brands, what are the challenges you are facing in your position?

2,5 billion people use Unilever products every day. This comes with a lot of responsibility to apply fair business practices everywhere, and of course competition authorities watch our behavior on the markets carefully. As my role is a global one, I work together with my legal colleagues everywhere in Unilever to ensure that Unilever conducts its business in compliance with the local laws. But we also strive to establish and live up to global standards even where competition laws do not exist or are not effectively enforced. As a competition lawyer I am thrilled to witness for example in Africa a drive towards competition compliance even where this is not required under local laws.

All the best for your new role!