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Buying Guide Expands Its Horizons to Japan, England

March 04, 1992|LYNN SIMROSS

"Shopping for a Better World" has gone global.

The 1992 edition includes ratings for Japanese and British companies that sell their products in the United States. They are similar to those given U.S. firms for the last four years.

Japanese companies were surveyed by researchers for the Asahi Journal, which published a similar guide in Japan. Asahi scores major Japanese firms on 11 issues, including family benefits, workplace issues, opportunities for women, environmental awareness, support of the community and charitable contributions.

The Japanese rating key includes a bird in flight to symbolize "a healthy awareness of social concerns," a sitting bird to indicate "a more limited response" and a cracked egg to convey that "company social responsibility in this area is not yet born."

Best of the 14 Japanese companies was Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., makers of Panasonic and Quasar, with eight flying birds and no eggs. Sony had seven flying birds and no eggs.

Snow Brand Milk Products, manufacturers of dairy products and frozen foods, was last with three eggs and three flying birds.

Japanese companies scored well in the family benefits category, because they tend to offer long maternity leaves, and on workplace issues, because many help employees purchase homes.

Matsushita, Sony and Fuji Photo Film Co. allow more than required maternity leave and provide child-care leave.

No Japanese firm rated well on advancement for women. Only Kikkoman Corp. soy sauce and Shiseido Co. cosmetics have women in more than 1% of management jobs.

British firms were surveyed by New Consumer, which evaluated corporations on their policies on Third World countries, holdings in South Africa, political contributions and animal testing.

Of 16 British companies rated in the guide, only Body Shop International, manufacturer of hair-care products, scored top ratings in four categories: disclosure of policies for the survey, community involvement, animal testing and South African holdings. On the South Africa issue, New Consumer found that half of the British firms polled still have subsidiaries in South Africa employing more than 100 people.

According to the surveys, American companies do far better than Japanese or British in two categories: charitable contributions and women in management. British firms provide maternity leave.

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