Big brand owners fail transparency test

11 July 2012

NEW YORK: Honda, Berkshire Hathaway, Amazon and Apple are among the least "transparent" major corporations around the world, according to a new study.

Transparency International, the not-for-profit group, rated how openly the 105 biggest global companies reported their anti-corruption schemes, country-by-country sales and organisational structures.

Financial services firms posted three of the four lowest scores, with the Bank of China on 1.1 points out of ten, the Bank of Communication on 1.7 points, and the China Construction Bank on 1.9 points. Honda, the automaker, shared this latter score.

Berkshire Hathaway, the conglomerate, received 2.4 points, followed by NTT, the telco, on 2.6 points. Amazon, the ecommerce platform, claimed 2.8 points, the same rating as Gazprom, the energy firm, and Toyota, the carmaker.

Anheuser-Busch InBev, the brewer, came next with 2.9 points, joined by Google, the online giant. Canon, the electronics manufacturer, registered three points, with the Bank of America and Apple on 3.2 points.

"Many of the world's largest publicly traded companies still do not demonstrate that they have put enough transparency measures in place to help prevent another economic meltdown," the study warned.

Statoil, the energy group, recorded the highest returns, on 8.3 points, ahead of three mining specialists: Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton on 7.2 points and Arcelor Mittal on 6.9 points.

BG Group, the natural gas expert, was on 6.7 points, matching HSBC, the bank, and BASF, the industrial conglomerate. France Telecom, BP, in the oil sector, and Allianz, the insurer, all yielded 6.6 points.

Companies achieved an average score of 68% for reporting their anti-corruption efforts. BASF, BG Group and Statoil all claimed 100% here, whereas the Bank of China and Bank of Communications and Gazprom logged 0% apiece.

When assessing organisational transparency, 45 players attained 100%, including L'Oreal, the cosmetics manufacturer, Unilever, the FMCG firm, and Walmart, the retailer. The cross-industry norm was 72%.

The lowest figures on this measure went to Anheuser-Busch InBev on 25%. Apple, the electronics pioneer, Google, the technology company, McDonald's, the fast-food chain, and Procter & Gamble, the consumer goods manufacturer, were among 21 players on 33%.

Reporting sales by country constituted the area where least progress has been made. Statoil again headed the rankings on 50%, but the average was just 4%, and 41 enterprises were on 0%.

Data sourced from Transparency International; additional content by Warc staff