Power to the consumers


by Stuart Wax

Shopping for a Better World
Council on Economic Priorities
350 pp. US$6.45
Reviewed By Stuart Wax

When we buy a product at a supermarket, we not only purchase an item, but we also support the company that produced it. If you buy from a company that is or isn't socially responsible, you are sending a message.

In Australia, there are dozens of US companies doing business. With reference to the latest Council on Economic Priorities manual, Australians have an opportunity to decide for themselves which companies fall in line with their conscience.

The guide covers companies' stands on many different topics, including investment in South Africa, animal testing, military spending, women/minority advancement, nuclear power, the exporting of infant formula to Third World countries and the environment.

Companies with investment in South Africa include Kraft, Nabisco (owned by R.J. Reynolds), Pepsi, Coke, Colgate-Palmolive, Kellogg, Sara Lee, Proctor and Gamble and Cadbury-Schweppes.

Companies with financial involvement in the nuclear industry include 3M and Dow, while almost all of the major oil companies have military contracts. Kodak and Ralston-Purina also have military contracts.

Gillette and Schick, two companies producing shaving products, use animal testing, while the cosmetics companies Revlon and Avon have both stopped this form of testing.

Shopping for a Better World notes that companies with bad records on women and minority issues include Lipton, Wrigley, Hormel and Clorox. Companies known to damage the environment include Georgia-Pacific and Scott Paper.

But consumer pressure has forced some companies to change their policies. Companies which have made positive steps on a variety of issues include Campbell Soup, Hershey, Quaker Oats, Polaroid, Newman's Own, Celestial Teas, Yoplait and Knorr.

Nestle's was put under great pressure to stop sending infant formula to the Third World by a consumer group called INFACT. A boycott over several years helped bring an end to Nestle's marketing policy. Since 1987, INFACT has launched a campaign against General Electric, makers not just of light globes but also weapons.

To buy a copy of Shopping For A Better World, write to: Council on Economic Priorities, 30 Irving Pl., New York, NY, 10003, USA. The price is US$6.45 or five copies for US$18, plus $US10 for postage and handling.

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