The world's largest processed food and beverages company Nestlé is under siege over plans by ceo Peter Brabeck to take on the additional role of company chairman.

The move by the Swiss-headquartered giant, which bucks the European trend of splitting two top jobs, has met with fierce opposition from a number of national pension funds.

In response, Brabeck has threatened to quit, as has the entire Nestlé board, if shareholders succeed in forcing the company to maintain separate roles. He is due to take over as chairman next month, following the retirement of incumbent Rainer Gut.

Leading the investors' revolt is the Ethos Foundation, a mutual fund for sustainable development. It believes Nestlé's decision to combine the roles of chairman and ceo "is not in line with corporate governance best practice".

In addition, it wants the length of board mandates to be reduced from five years to three and and a reduction in the amount of shares investors must own to place an item on the annual meeting agenda.

Says Ethos director Dominique Biedermann: "We hope that 15% or 20% of support [from other shareholders] will be enough [to ensure] that Mr Brabeck will resign from one of his two roles." Ethos did not want Brabeck to step down entirely. "He is a very competent chairman."

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff