Zijderveld will replace Doug Baillie, who has been appointed chief HR officer for the company.
Zijderveld will leave his position as executive vice president for South East Asia and Australasia (SEAA), which he has held since 2008.
Prior to this, he was made chair of Unilever Arabia in 2004 and was chairman of Unilever’s Nordic business from 2003. Before joining the company, Zijderveld held a range of marketing and customer development roles in the Netherlands, Italy and Sweden.
Zijderveld will report to Unilever's chief executive, Paul Polman. The current UK chair at the company, Amanda Souriy, will report to Zijderveld.
Paul Polman, chief executive, Unilever, said: "I am extremely pleased to be able to make these changes that strengthen what is already a formidable top team.
"Jan, currently executive vice president for South East Asia and Australasia (SEAA) will bring considerable experience of both Asian and European markets to his new role, building on the competitive position already established, ensuring fast, pan-European delivery of innovation in to the marketplace and integrating the Sara Lee and Alberto Culver acquisitions when the latter has received regulatory clearance."
Zijderveld will join the Unilever executive with his new role. This will not effect Baillie’s position on the executive.
Last week, Unilever appointed Paul Nevett as global vice-president for the Unilever brand, effective 1 February.