Paul Polman
Unilever chief executive Paul Polman Reuters

Past and present senior executives of Anglo-Dutch consumer goods maker Unilever have warned the company would be "negatively impacted" in the event of a British exit from the European Union.

In a joint letter to the company's 7,500 employees on Thursday (16 June), chief executive Paul Polman, former chief executives Patrick Cescau and Niall FitzGerald and former chairman Sir Michael Perry, noted: "It is not for us to suggest how people might vote, but in taking this hugely important and irreversible decision, we feel a responsibility to point out that Unilever in the UK, with its thriving operating company, international research centres, factories and global headquarters would, in our considered opinion, be negatively impacted if the UK were to leave the European Union."

They added that the company owed much of its successes over the last two decades to having access to "a single European market" of 500m consumers.

A Unilever spokesperson told the International Business Times UK that senior executives felt the need to respond to questions about the future from Unilever employees and pensioners.

However, he declined comment on the impact a potential Brexit might have on jobs and investment.

In a statement later in the day, Unilever said it would continue to operate and have facilities in the UK after a Brexit, but added: "The way we run the company may be fundamentally different if the decision were taken to leave the EU."