The best known, most prestigious, and largest keiretsu, is the Mitsubishi Group of companies.
Given the size and reach of its diverse activities, and due to the fact that it is more heavily focused in polluting industrial sectors than other keiretsu, the Mitsubishi Group may well be the single most environmentally destructive corporate force on Earth.
* There are more than 160 corporations, employing over half a million people, that make up the Mitsubishi Group.
* These entities hold shares in roughly 1400 separate Japanese companies, while another 700 or so "related firms" are dependent on the Mitsubishi Group.
The core Mitsubishi companies are ranked as global leaders in most key economic sectors and are involved in an array of activities that range from making chopsticks to building rocketships.
Indeed, the combined revenues of the twelve Mitsubishi companies listed in Fortune Magazine's "Global 500" are comparable to the combined Gross Domestic Product of Mexico and Central America, or the Netherlands and New Zealand -- take your pick.
* In 1995 the Mitsubishi Corporation, the group's general trading company or sogo shosha, was ranked by Fortune Magazine as the largest corporation on the planet, with revenues topping $175 billion.
* Mitsubishi Bank is the largest commercial banking company in the world, with assets of nearly $820 billion.
* Mitsubishi Group member, Meiji Mutual is the sixth largest mutual life insurance company on earth, with assets of more than $90 billion.
* Mitsubishi Motors and Mitsubishi Chemical have reached the ranks of the world's top ten vehicle producers and top ten chemical companies respectively.
* Mitsubishi Electric is one of the top ten electronics companies and one of the fifty largest industrial companies in the world, with annual sales approaching $33 billion -- making it thirty percent larger than American high-tech powerhouse Motorola.
* Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is the largest industrial and farm equipment manufacturer on the planet.
* Other core group members include Mitsubishi Materials (the twelfth largest metals company on earth), Kirin Brewery (the fourth largest beverage company), Mitsubishi Oil (the twenty-eighth petroleum refiner) and Asahi Glass (third in building materials).
The Mitsubishi Group Dominates Japan
While the Mitsubishi Group's global reach is certainly extensive, it is even more dominant at home. The revenues of the same eleven companies mentioned above makes up roughly eleven percent of Japan's entire GDP.
* The sogo shosha, Mitsubishi Corporation, is Japan's number one fossil fuel trader.
* Mitsubishi Materials is the country's number one non-ferrous metal producer, importing platinum, copper and other raw materials from Mitsubishi financed ventures as far away as Chile and South Africa.
* Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is Japan's number one ship and rocket builder, gas, oil, coal-fired and nuclear power plant maker, and heavy machinery producer. Mitsubishi Heavy, which builds patriot missiles, is also Japan's number one defense contractor -- no small market, considering that Japan's "non-offensive" military's budget is already the world's third largest.
* Mitsubishi Chemical is Japan's largest integrated chemical corporation.
* Asahi Glass was Japan's top producer of the ozone depleting chemicals CFCs, and leads the field in producing their replacements -- HFCs, and HCFCs.
* Mitsubishi Estates is Tokyo's top land owner, controlling, among other assets, a good portion of the capital's high value downtown real estate -- an area known as Mitsubishi Village.
* It is estimated that Mitsubishi food companies specializing in the production, transport and distribution of canned products, grain, beef and fish, directly or indirectly feed about one quarter of the entire Japanese population.
* Much of Japan washes this food down with alcohol produced by the Keiretsu member Kirin, Japan's largest brewer.
The Mitsubishi Group does not derive its power and profits merely from the individual companies that make up its clan. It and the other Big Six Keiretsu enjoy the added strength that comes from the synergy created through joint projects carried out among member companies.
The flagship corporations -- the banks and sogo shosha -- use their reciprocal trade and financing relationships with other keiretsu members as the primary vehicles to arrive at a highly sophisticated level of collaboration.
Source: Joshua Karliner, "The Corporate Planet: Ecology and Politics in the Age of Globalization," (Sierra Club Books, 1997)