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Good Company : Group Rates Firms on Their Social Responsibility

From Associated Press

A consumer group has rated the makers of Colgate toothpaste, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, Johnson Wax and Wheaties as the most socially responsible companies.

At the other end of the spectrum in the third annual edition of “Shopping for a Better World” were Castle & Cooke Inc., producer of Dole Fruits and Sun Giant Raisins, and USX Corp., the steel and energy company.

The 1991 guide rates 180 companies producing more than 2,000 household products by their performance in 12 policy categories, including the environment, minority hiring, labor practices and involvement in South Africa.

“As more and more shoppers make informed socially sound choices . . . we are converting our shopping carts into vehicles for social change,” said Alice Tepper Marlin, head of the Council on Economic Priorities, the book’s publisher.

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A poll of 1,496 American consumers by the Roper Organization found that 52% would be willing to spend 10% more for a product made by a socially responsible company.

The four top-rated companies in this year’s guide included two dramatically improved companies and “two old faithfuls,” Marlin said.

Colgate-Palmolive Co., the maker of Colgate toothpaste and the laundry detergent Fab, was one of the most improved. The council said it has doubled its buying from minority-owned businesses, increased its percentage of top minority officers to 10% from less than 5% and changed its plastic packaging to recycled material.

S. C. Johnson Wax was also a most-improved company. In one year, the company has decreased the number of animals used for product safety by 47% and boosted its funding for research into testing alternatives from $25,000 in 1988 to $309,000 in 1990, Marlin said.

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General Mills, the maker of Wheaties and Yoplait yogurt, and Kellogg Co., the maker of Corn Flakes and All Bran, “deserve special credit for consistent care and credibility,” Marlin said.

Among the companies cited for social irresponsibility are USX and Castle & Cooke, as well as Abbott Laboratories (Selsun Blue Shampoo), ConAgra Inc. (Butterball Turkey and Wesson Oil) and Kimberly-Clark Corp. (Huggies and Kleenex).

According to the council, federal courts fined USX $12 million for discrimination against blacks who had applied for laborer jobs and awarded $3 million in damages to 300 women denied jobs at one of its mining operations.

Castle & Cooke turned in an “abysmal performance” on labor issues. Marlin noted that Dole was hit with a court order to pay back wages.


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