When I lived in Japan, I was surprised by the extensive knowledge the average person had about corporate ownership and affiliations. (With baseball teams it was easy, because the company name is part of the team handle. The “Nippon Ham” Fighters, for example, or the “Fukuoka SoftBank” Hawks.)
I got to thinking about this again just the other day and realized that, speaking of American companies, I had no idea. Is Nabisco part of Kraft? Do Proctor & Gamble and GE have a stock relationship? Aren’t Pepsi and Coke the same company?
(Yes, not that I can tell, and again, I don’t think so.)
Turns out that Nabisco is a brand of Kraft Foods, Inc, which is owned by Altria Group, the parent company of Philip Morris. And I discovered some interesting trivia:
According to Wikipedia, Coca-Cola continues to outsell Pepsi in almost all areas of the world. Except for Pakistan, where Pepsi has sponsored the national cricket team since the 1990s. And a few other countries.
And who could forget those Trivial Pursuit Pringles, produced some years back by Proctor & Gamble? Me, apparently.
Of course, when you shop at local, independent stores you know the owner. You know where your money is going. In my small “big city” of Spokane,Washington, I know several business owners personally.
But who runs the media outlets that provide my news? Did they donate to the Bush campaign? Did they support Obama? What is their track record on treating their employees? Which advertisers support them heavily?
(Advertising pressures can lead to “sacred cows” in the newsroom, which means that reporters don’t cover stories critical to these companies.)
What about the grocery store where I shop, or the department store where I sometimes buy clothes? My online bookstore? Does my cosmetic company perform animal testing or run third-world sweatshops?
Recently our local paper reported that Costco, which is headquartered near Seattle, is donating heavily to an initiative to allow liquor to be sold in grocery stores in Washington State. (At present only the state can sell the hard stuff.)
Now, I’m not sure how I feel about that. But if I had a strong opinion, it might influence me to either shop at Costco or not to shop there. I might even write them a letter.
Want to find out more? The Columbia Journalism Review can tell you the holdings of media conglomerates like Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, the Washington Post Company or Walt Disney Media, and other industry-specific sites can be found.
But meanwhile, I Start With Trust by checking out companies on www.bbb.org to see if the are BBB Accredited. By shopping a BBB Accredited Business, you can rest assured that:
- the company values ethics and wants to treat you right
- has promised the BBB to resolve disputes quickly and fairly
And if, for some reason, the company should fail to stand by its word and live up to its promises, we will hold them accountable.