199 Comments

Comments

John Mackey says ...
To Ian, You are arguing against something I didn't say. I didn't say that total forestry was increasing everywhere in the world--just in the United States. Here is my exact quote: "None of the environmental problems are intractable problems, but all are capable of being solved through entrepreneurial creativity and collective human resolve. The fact is that the environment has greatly improved in the United States over the past 100 years--the air and water are both much cleaner than they were 100 years ago, and total forests have grown by millions of acres. This is all well documented by Bjorn Lomborg in his book "The Skeptical Environmentalist". Of course many serious environmental problems remain to be solved (such as Global Warming), but we are capable of solving them and I believe we will do so." Decline in total world forestry remains a serious problem, but it appears to also have been exaggerated by some environmentalists. However, my quote above refers only to the United States--not the entire world. Here is a quote from "It's Getting Better All the Time" by Stephen Moore, p. 204. "Currently, the Forest Service reports that the United States is growing about 22 million net new cubic feet of wood a year and harvesting only 16.5 million--a net increase of 36% per year. This contrasts with the situation in the early years of this century, when about twice as many trees were cut as were planted." "In this century, despite a fivefold increase in population, the percentage of land space that is covered by forest has remained remarkably constant at about 1/3 of the land area of the United States." "Economists Roger A. Sedjor and Marion Clawson of Resources for the Future have documented the long-term improvement in the inventory of U.S. forests. "As a result of dramatically higher wood growth in the United States, and as a result of timber harvest at a rate less than growth, inventories of standing timber have increased significantly since 1920. The popular view is that the United States is consuming its wood faster than it is growing and that we are denuding our forests. In fact, exactly the reverse is happening--we are building them up." Ian, in the United States the immigrants from Europe did in fact decrease forests in the United States significantly as they cleared lands of trees to plant crops and to graze cattle. This went on for several hundreds of years. However, the exact opposite is now occurring today. Much of the marginal farm and grazing lands in New England, Texas, and many other parts of the country are now steadily returning to forests as the land does not have adequate farming and grazing value to economically pay. On an anecdotal note, I see this happening all over the Hill Country in Texas where I live. The trees were cut down to graze cattle in the 19th and early 20th centuries. However, much of this land is no longer good cattle country (and probably never was) and so now this same land is being steadily recaptured by expanding forests. Please don't misunderstand me. I am not arguing that we don't still have serious environmental problems. We certainly do and I'm very committed to increasing environmental protections throughout the United States and the world. My argument is that we are capable of solving these problems and in fact there are many examples of environmental problems improving rather than getting worse due to deliberate human actions. Air and water quality are tremendously improved in the United States over the past 50 years. For example, lead concentrations have fallen by more than 97% since 1976. During the same time period sulfur dioxides have decreased 58%, nitrogen dioxides by 27%, ozone by 30%, and carbon monoxide by 61% (Environmental Protection Agency--National Air Quality and Emissions Trends Report).
11/21/2006 10:57:08 PM CST
CKM says ...
I would urge people posting comments to stick to issues raised in the essay. Buying stocks is a risky business - no wonder it comes with a disclaimer and it will be unfair for the WFM stock prices to hijack the good issues raised in the article.There are countless blogs discussing stock prices and thats the best venue.No normal human being would like the stock for his company to drop. Admittedly, issues raised in the essay are beyond narrow analysis and call for careful dissection of facts and advanced research unlike just jumping on posting comments. Being a Thanks Givng period, i wish WFM a great field period filled with serving people tasty, organic and pesticide free foods for this joyous period. As a happy team member with keen interest in management research and academics, the organizational culture and management style of WFM gives me the rare opportunity to carefully reflect on what our CEO stands out for and shares in the essay- redefining certain business concepts because of the growth the company has experienced. Can we get that from the Publix/Safeway blogs, if any exist? Bet not! The tenets of competitive environment is the quest for information flow and people interested in company operations are determined to get the information they need in one way or another and thats what we get from our CEO. To John, keep that information flowing and a happy Thanks Giving day to all the great team members of WFM. Lets rock those numbers! A question for John: Any deliberate plans to join the fight against AIDS especially in third world countries like Africa countries? I ask this question because i know certain countries in Africa which stand for the same reasons WFM promotes - A country called Zambia in particular rejected GMO food donations from industrialized nations- and opted for organic foods despite countless number of its citizens starving and living on less than a dollar per day if lucky.
11/22/2006 9:57:42 AM CST
Ian says ...
Dear John, You're absolutely right, in my haste to point out the deficiencies of "The Skeptical Environmentalist" I committed exactly the same kind of error that Bjorn Lomborg has been accused of. My quote was out of context and I apologize. According to the Forest Inventory and Analysis National Program of the US Forest Service (http://www.fia.fs.fed.us/) "Since 1900, forest area in the U.S. has remained statistically within 745 million acres +/-5% with the lowest point in 1920 of 735 million acres. U.S. forest area in 2000 was about 749 million acres." This same analysis says that this is about 33% of all land in the US. So, as you say, forests in the US do seem to be recovering. One reason for this however is that imports of timber from other countries (particularly Canada) have been increasing - according to the Forest Service (www.fpl.fs.fed.us/documnts/fplrp/fplrp595.pdf - p.12) "In 1999, lumber imports to the United States from all countries totaled 19.9 billion board feet, an all-time high (Tables 28 and 31). During the same year, exports from the United States to all countries totaled just 2.5 billion board feet (Tables 28 and 32). The difference, 17.4 billion board feet, was net foreign trade and represented lumber consumption in the United States in excess of that which was produced domestically." On the bright side (particularly if you're a tree) most timber in this country is consumed by the construction industry, and with the current downturn in new housing construction, tree cover in both Canada and the States should expand. And of course the situation is far better in the States than in Japan, which is covered in both old-growth and plantation forest from North to South, but hardly uses any of it because it's cheaper to cut down the tropical rainforests of their SE Asian neighbors instead. The tried and true economic principle of comparative advantage, in other words... The EPA statistics you mentioned are very interesting, I think what's happened is that *emissions* of these substances have fallen drastically, thanks to the Clean Air Act passed under the Nixon Administration. Notice how it was government regulations that caused an improvement in the environment rather than companies voluntarily cleaning up their act. I'm sure that if Exxon Mobil, Chevron and the rest had had their way, it would have taken much longer for lead to be removed from gasoline. Nevertheless, as you say, air quality in the US is far better than it was in the '70s. It would improve even more, and perhaps even mitigate global warming, if this country could make a quick switch to less polluting forms of transportation, but, if you've ever seen a documentary called "Who Killed the Electric Car" (http://www.sonyclassics.com/whokilledtheelectriccar/) you'll know that there is very little interest from the corporations in making this switch any time soon. Let me reiterate, I greatly respect your efforts to work within the "system" to make the world a better place for all living beings. Like many people who are concerned about maintaining the diversity of life on this planet, I have my doubts about whether corporations in general can have a positive effect in this regard, but since you are committed and honest enough to allow gadflies like myself to air their views on your forum, I am willing to suspend disbelief in the case of your company. I wish you all the best! Ian
11/22/2006 8:53:24 PM CST
Dean Williams says ...
Mr. Mackey, As an entrepreneur and CEO myself, I wanted to applaud your efforts, and philosophy as written here and elsewhere that I’ve followed for several years. I agree strongly with Conscious Capitalism as you’ve presented it here, and have been diligently working on promoting these same principles within my company. I appreciate your leadership on this subject, and have little to offer in criticism at this juncture. Be assured there are businesses and leaders who agree with these very principles; find them as you do, tenants for managing within the new opportunities being granted in the Information age; and therefore supportive as well as demonstrative of the very principles you have outlined. I look forward to your next chapters.
11/24/2006 7:35:18 AM CST
Peter Strople says ...
John you are a light in a very dark world. We are all searching for the meaning of life and we all at our core want to make a difference. The business you have created and the way it is attempting to help through Conscious Capitalism are admirable. You and Whole Foods are great examples how a persons heart can manifest through business into an action oriented endeavor that makes this world a better place to live. You are a testament to how one person can make a difference and how you can use business to do a greater good! Thanks for showing us the way!
11/24/2006 10:50:20 AM CST
John Mackey says ...
World Poverty is declining: People have asked me about my statistics concerning poverty reduction. Here are some statistics from the World Bank from 2004: Global Poverty Down By Half Since 1981 But Progress Uneven As Economic Growth Eludes Many Countries Available in: Arabic, French, Japanese, Chinese, Russian, Portuguese, Spanish, Russian Press Release No:2004/309/S Contacts: In Washington: Christopher Neal (202) 473-7229 Cneal1@worldbank.org Cynthia Case (TV/Radio) (202) 473-2243 Ccase@worldbank.org WASHINGTON, April 23, 2004 — The proportion of people living in extreme poverty (less than $1 a day) in developing countries dropped by almost half between 1981 and 2001, from 40 to 21 percent of global population, according to figures released today by the World Bank. But while rapid economic growth in East and South Asia has pulled over 500 million people out of poverty in those two regions alone, the proportion of poor has grown, or fallen only slightly, in many countries in Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe and Central Asia. This uneven progress raises concerns that the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) approved by 189 nations in 2000, the first of which is to reduce the 1990 poverty rate by half by 2015, may be beyond reach for some countries. "Economic growth in China and India has delivered a dramatic reduction in the number of poor," said François Bourguignon, the Bank's Chief Economist. "But other regions have not enjoyed sustained growth and, in too many cases, the number of poor has actually increased. Although we are likely to reach the first Millennium Development Goal of reducing poverty by half worldwide by 2015, much more aid, much more openness to trade, and more widespread policy reforms are needed to achieve all the MDGs in all countries." The Bank's annual statistical report, World Development Indicators 2004 (WDI), released today, shows a drop in the absolute number of people living on less than $1 a day in all developing countries from 1.5 billion in 1981, to 1.1 billion in 2001, with much of the progress occurring in the 1980s. Between 1990 and 2001, the global decline in the number of extremely poor people slowed somewhat, falling by about 120 million—from 1.2 billion to 1.1 billion people—while the proportion of poor people dropped from 28 percent to 21 percent of the total population. Gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in all developing countries rose by 30 percent between 1981 and 2001. In East Asia, where GDP per capita tripled, with average annual growth of 6.4 percent, the proportion of people living in extreme poverty fell from 58 to 16 percent, and the absolute number pulled out of extreme poverty since 1981 was more than 400 million. Dramatic progress against absolute poverty has been made by China, where GDP per capita went up five times since 1981 and the number of extremely poor fell from over 600 million to slightly more that 200 million, or from 64 percent to 17 percent. About half of this progress was in the first half of the 1980s. In South Asia, a 5.5 percent average annual GDP growth rate in the 1990s helped reduce the proportion of extremely poor from 41 in 1990 to 31 percent. But because this economic expansion coincided with rapid population growth in the region since 1990, the absolute number living on less than $1 a day dropped by just 34 million since 1990, to 428 million in 2001. In marked contrast to East and South Asia, poverty actually rose in Sub-Saharan Africa. Since 1981, a 13-percent contraction in GDP per capita in Sub-Saharan Africa resulted in a near-doubling of the number of people living on less than $1 a day, from 164 million to 314 million, a rise from 42 to 47 percent of the region's population. In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, too, high unemployment and declining output in many of the formerly centrally-planned economies drove extreme poverty rates up from near-zero in 1981 to six percent by 1999, but there is evidence of a recent decline in the poverty rate. The number of people living on less than $2 a day in Eastern Europe and Central Asia rose from eight million (two percent) in 1981 to over 100 million (24 percent) in 1999, dropping back to slightly more than 90 million (20 percent) in 2001. In Latin America and the Caribbean, economic growth rose only slightly through the 1990s, and poverty fell only marginally. The proportion of poor in the region in 2001, including both those living on less than $1 and $2 a day—10 percent and 25 percent respectively—was roughly comparable to that in 1981, when they were 10 percent and 27 percent. In the Middle East and North Africa, extreme poverty dropped by about half since 1981, from five percent to two percent in 2001, while the proportion living on less than $2 a day was down from 29 percent in 1981 to 23 percent in 2001. Here is the url on the full World Bank Report: http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/NEWS/0,,contentMDK:20194973~menuPK:34463~pagePK:64003015~piPK:64003012~theSitePK:4607,00.html Humanity still has a long way to go to end poverty throughout the entire world. The important thing to understand, however, is that we are making steady progress towards that goal. Collective Human Intellectual Capital is rapidly growing--and spreading throughout the world. There is no reason to believe that this trend will not only continue but will likely accelerate and as it does, humanity will put an end to poverty--in this century. Please note, however, that there is one major exception to the overall upward flow of human prosperity--Sub-Saharan Africa. This is due to a multiplicity of causes--war, AIDS, the lack of good governments, the lack of entrepreneurial capitalism, the relative lack of trust and other forms of social capital--to name just a few. We won't end poverty in the world until Sub-Saharan Africa fully participates in the upward flow of human development.
11/24/2006 7:00:04 PM CST
Walter Solomon says ...
Wilst I applaud your concept and look forward to your store opening in London next year, I find one gaping omission in your website, your blog and the responses to your blog. Nowhere do you or your correspondents mention the issue of FOOD MILES. One of the major causes of global warming is the growth of air travel. I am not one who will not fly to save the pollution of my flight. If I do not fly I cannot enjoy the pleasures of international travel and discovery. But I do try to purchase locally grown organic food. Some UK supermarkets already name the farmer on the produce package. Why should I buy tomatoes from Italy during the growing season in the UK? I am sure a similar question applies in the USA. If you would purchase locally grown produce wherever possible you would save the pollution and global warming caused by air or ground transportation from more distant producers.
11/25/2006 10:00:30 AM CST
Mary Anne Davis says ...
Dear John- I applaude your vision and your future book. I look forward to reading more. I have thought if it as Social Capitalism, but I like Conscious Capitalism better. Under "Suppliers as Partners", I ask that you elaborate considerably. Grameen's success is relative to creating producers, the backbone of any economy. Your suppliers are most often producers, and their ability as such determines your or any business's long term sustainable success. Artisanal production is often overlooked as a potential area for development, with the factory (scale is the really the point here) seen as the most efficient way to create goods. A network of micro-enterprises, micro-factories, micro-farms could create the foundation for a distribution system as created by Whole Foods, for instance. These micro-enterprises could be extremley efficient, as per each individual entrepreneur/producer sees fit. Freedom in production. The back story for all the goods in the store would then be very rich and deep, indeed. While this suggestion can be assumed by WFM, it also has potential in other areas of distribiution. If ethics and transparency are foundational to a sustainable future, then production, the means of production and the inventors, creators, artists, and farmers who produce are also essential partners in your network. Yours truly- Mary Anne Davis
11/26/2006 3:33:38 PM CST
Bill Chapman says ...
I was very pleased to read that recently (?) you have decided to not sell live lobsters at any of your stores. It is a long time coming that a policy such as you have implemented, not torturing live animals and treating them with a certain amount of respect,was put into place in a major way. When we institutionalize cruelty, we give our tacit agreement on those methods, and the results. And yes we are killing and eating the end product! This does not mean we should treat these beings with any less respect. I truly hope you and yours continue on this road. Good luck and long life.
11/26/2006 7:53:57 PM CST
Mike Rock says ...
This essay has concepts straight from Michael Phillips curious little books it looks like: Honest Business and The Seven Laws of Money. This is probably not an accident. I've enjoyed the ideas in these books and it is interesting to see the ideas in action.
11/27/2006 6:46:41 PM CST
Joseph R. Serrano says ...
Greetings John, I am a young entrepreneur and a case study for Conscious Capitalism in my endeavor to reinvent the industry of fabric care (aka dry cleaning) into one that is in partnership with our planet and integrated into the fashion world. My concept is underway, has won statewide business plan awards, and continues to earn interest in the business community. However, I need funding and a management team. My question revolves around finding the "right" investors, advisors, and partners for a "Conscious Capitalism" company. I constantly make reference to you, Whole Foods, and other companies that have created tremendous long term value with the approach you articulate. It is in vogue these days to say you believe in these principles, but in practice it is rare. How do I keep it authentic as the Founder when I need capital, management, and all that comes with it? My concept will take alot of capital and more time than 98% of companies backed with venture funds, but long term it can ultimately change an industry and create Whole Foods-like value to all stakeholders. I have just begun the search for capital, and other resources, but I suspect I would be laughed out of the room at most VC's. I know the "right" investors, advisors, and partners are out there to act as a catalyst for the Conscious Capitalism evolution--after all, you found them for Whole Foods. Where are they? Do Conscious Capitalism venture funds exist? How about angel investor groups that focus on Conscious Capitalism principles? These seem to me to be a vital component of creating the new paradigm. I would love to hear your thoughts. Kindest Regards, Joseph R. Serrano Vantagio
11/28/2006 3:02:29 PM CST
CKM says ...
John, Thanks a lot for the information on poverty reduction and your very perfect analysis of the situation especially in Sub Sahara Africa - where I happen to come from. AIDS, lack of proper accountable governance has hindered a lot of development in this part of the world.The most booming business is in the coffin making sector as the demand is so much higher as a result of so many deaths mostly due to AIDS. All the educated people are running away or rushing to join in looting the few resources at their disposal once they join government positions. The World bank and major donors wrote off debts to most of these countries and that has not benefited the common man as millions of people wallow in serious poverty while the very few in government enjoy the sweet of power by driving the most expensive cars money can buy,spreading AIDS,corruption,etc. Look at the Swaziland king, he just bought a chain of top of the line BMWs for all his many wives and gets himself the most expensive mercedes benz. Our leaders have no priorities and are heartless. Its so heart breaking to talk to people down there because every time you make a call, they will inform you that, "oh that person passed away." As educated as you can get here, its again a waste of time and human capital to go down there and try to influence change without financial capital. Micro Finance companies backed by the European Economic Union have tried to pursue microfranchising - networks of small, successful, locally-owned businesses, designed for replication, providing essential goods and services plus jobs in low-income communities; on the same premises as that one done by Muhammad Yunus, winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. This has not worked because of very high interest rates charged on these loans and lack of proper information management as the executives for these same micro financing companies get paid very high salaries and end up more like exploiting the very people they are supposed to help. I have developed keen interest in studying and evaluating micro financing as pursued by Muhammad Yunus and see how best the same guidelines could be applied in Sub Saharan context and its an ongoing debatable subject with my peers working for the World bank and local banks down in Africa. Thanks once more, at least people of your calibre and vision give hope to continue the fight for poverty reduction as seen from the many vendors spread across the world your company promotes and supports to better their living conditions through sustainable farming and your genuine concern for human kind, environment and social justice.
11/28/2006 7:54:00 PM CST
Mark Tilton says ...
Dear Mr. Mackey, I have read your Chapter and agree with all that you write. I have just returned from Purdue University and it seems all the Business courses do not have a model such as this, rather a model to maximize profits. Sometimes maximizing these profits can come at the expense of other things that are neccessary to the working company, such as employee moral and customer appreciation. Need we remind anyone that there would be no way to make any money without a customer and no need for customers if there was no market for such a great product e selling. I am a TM at the DC in Munster, Indiana and look forward to working with this great company for a long time. -mark
11/30/2006 1:25:22 PM CST
Harry Thompson, COO Traders Point Creamery says ...
John: I am the operations manager of a smal lbut growing family owned organic dairy farm and creamery. We agree with the business philosophy espoused in your essay and are doing our best to make it a reality. As an MBA minted in the 1960's, it took me many years to see that the "conventional wisdom" of that era failed to account for the fact that business is a system that must deal with many complex interactions and serve many stakeholders. Also, the notion of managing for excellance and profits will follow, took a while to sink in. In my opinion, those embarking on the journey to implement "Conscious Capitalism" face a long and often difficult road. A rosd on which the must avoid: 1) Losing their entreprenurial spirit. 2) Being seduced by money and selling out. 3) Succumbing to the instant gratification society we live in. I believe your thoughts on employees are on target. I would like to know more about your selection process. An essential element of ours is making certain that potential employees are alligned with our corporate philosophy and mission. In other words, they are true believers. If they are, the pitfalls mentioned above will be easier to avoid.
12/01/2006 9:33:21 AM CST
fritolay says ...
Dear Mr. Mackey, I just read the WSJ article regarding your reduction in salary, and to say the least, I am impressed. For a host of reasons, I think your action sends a signal to both employees and stockholders that you are sincere regarding the responsibility you bare as CEO, influencing perceptions and decisions. If more CEO's took the posture you have, companies thorughout the U.S. might be saved from both economic challenges as well as poor perception from both employees and consumers, as well as society and that community. On another note, I love your store. I was introduced to Whole Foods before the stores ruptured on the N.Y. scene. I only wish it were in my budget to do major food shopping in your outlets. But never fear, at any opportunity, I peruse the aisles, dreaming, buying delicious bread pudding from the prepared food sections, and thanking God, someone had the genius to create such a retail outlet.
12/04/2006 5:07:35 PM CST
Barbara Garcia says ...
Hi, I am a new team member in Prep. Foods. CSP in Florida. I just wanted to thank you becuase I have never worked for a compnay that is as postivie and cares about their employees as much as WFM does.
12/04/2006 6:59:04 PM CST
Ian says ...
Hello again John, I just noticed an article in Mother Jones by Bill McKibben about "corporate social responsibility" that you and other contributors to this blog might find interesting. Be warned however that he's a well-known greenie, so his tone is somewhat skeptical. http://www.motherjones.com/news/feature/2006/11/hype_vs_hope.html Best wishes, Ian
12/04/2006 9:32:55 PM CST
JLowther says ...
You are correct. Corporations are the most influential institutions in the world today. The key is the money behind it all. Yes, we need a new paradigm in business but will it be accepted? I don't know. Capitalism is based on competition but it has decayed into avarice and unfair advantages. Because of the scandals you mentioned (ie Enron, Tyco, World.com, etc.), people do not trust big business, and do you blame them? That is why I was very impressed that you are willing to take a pay cut in your salary and try to make the Whole Foods idea take hold. In the world of business today, the small business man is usually the one who is forced out of the picture. I have seen it happen many times with different people I know who owned their own businesses. Big conglomerates seem to take over and just become bigger and continue to eat up the small business man and his company. It is not what is wrong with capitalism but instead what is wrong with man. Generally, we have warped healthy competition into selfish greed. That is why it is refreshing to see your position that you are taking. Bravo. J Lowther By the way, I love the Whole foods store, and I shop there. I love your concepts that you put into practice in the store. Instead of supplying a very limited variety of what can maximize your sales, you also supply the items one cannot find in the big grocery food chains and at a fairly reasonable price. Very innovative. Please keep up this focus. I also agree with fritolay above and Harry Thompson who is running his small family owned creamery -- go small business man.
12/05/2006 1:26:19 PM CST
CHARLES -CKM- MUKUKA says ...
Today i met the second most powerful man in Whole Foods Market AC Gallo and at the end of the store visit, i asked myself so many questions which i will never get answers to and some how got the insight and personal convinction that there is more to management than just putting on expensive suits and speaking in a loud voice annoucing that the boss is here. Getting to interact with John on the blog was an eye opener but i really felt humbled to see with my owm eyes what it means to have the convinction that there is no such thing as busy executives without interacting with the very team members at the bottom of company rankings. Indeed, you need to rewrite management thinking especially based on this successful WFM model.
12/07/2006 9:55:31 PM CST
Frederick Coykendall says ...
This open concept of comunication between the head of an organization and the public is either a very astute marketing strike, or it's a genuine avenue for discourse; either way, the openness is very unusual in the food business, or any business for that matter. I am a senior manager in a hog production company, Rocky Mountain Pork (5000 sows). We ethically raise swine for the retail food market in the west/northwest USA and even though we say words and phrases like "lean" and "ethical" and "whole food", 99% of our production still ends up in the slice and dash meat trade where none of the extra work, care and value add means anything to the retailer and in the end, to the consumer; it's business as usual. That said, it's nice to see a company like Whole Foods open up to the public and deliver on what they say they will delvier on. Nice idea. Nice work. Frederick Coykendall Rocky Mountain Pork inter@telusplanet.net
12/10/2006 9:03:04 AM CST
Bob Jacklin says ...
John: Congratulations on the success of WFMI. I appreciate that you have been able to provide above market rewards for your employees and other stakeholders by charging your customers, a much higher price because they voluntarily buy into the WFMI experience, much like a Starbux customer. I think this is democracy, capitalism, and marketing at its best. As you have noted, it is a voluntary exchange. Bravo! I read your blog and you are not defining a new paradigm for business. I did not read anything in Conscious Capitalism that could be considered new. It appears to be just another book by a successful executive cashing in on his success. I have no problem with this. Many will be interested in your views and experiences. Every company I worked for during the last 20+ years had detailed mission statements and strategic plans that reflected an understanding that they were in partnership with their employees, customers, suppliers, environment, and local community. While I worked for a defense contractor, we had an outstanding recycling program and other environmental initiatives. Even WAL-Mart does an outstanding job of donating to thousands of local charities and school systems. My favorite company is the privately held Chik-Fil-A. While I applaud your understanding of the complexities of running a company, I think most companies today see themselves as either (your terms) good, true, beautiful, or heroic. Defense contractors have the most heroic business purposes I have ever read. They are the very protectors of freedom and democracy. They are in search of new frontiers (Boeing). Gambling casinos are in the world-class entertainment business. I do not know of a single enterprise that defines itself in the business of making money. However, I have read many a mission statements that read (along the lines of) "we will return above average returns to our investors." The reason that most not-for-profits are not economically sustainable is that they will lose their not-for-profit tax standing (and many of their contributions) if they untertake economic activities that would sustain them longer term. Wouldn't it be great if every high school student attending public schools had to read "Atlas Shrugged" and gain an understanding that most good things come from business. Government sponsored programs are paid for by the taxes provided by companies and their employees. The standard of living improvements are the result of the activities of thousands of businesses. I recognize that there are a few bad apples in the business world (as in every other area of life), that have helped tarnish the reputation of business. Instead of writing a book about a new paradigm, where none exists, I would rather you write a book about have we have become a paranoid state due to the 24 hour news channels bombarding us with negativity at an unprecedented rate. After twenty plus years as a business executive, and after sitting on the boards of two small companies, I thought I would give back by becoming a middle school math teacher in the public schools just outside Atlanta. What I experieced in ten weeks provided enough for a book on the failure of our public school system. Now there is a topic for a book. Continued success and fair play to your stakeholders. Best wishes. Bob Jacklin
12/11/2006 4:08:12 PM CST
TW says ...
I just wanted to say that I'm 24 now and wish I could have read more on this subject when I was 14. I really enjoyed the essay. Thanks.
12/12/2006 2:48:43 AM CST
John Mackey says ...
To Walter Solomon, I believe the virtues of Food Miles is greatly exaggerated by proponents of local foods. It is not the simple test of environmental integrity that many would have us believe. As is almost always the case, the issue of food and environmental integrity is highly complex. In addition there are other important issues besides environmental concerns, such as helping poor people in other countries, that should be taken into account. I want to quote extensively from Peter Singer and Jim Mason's wonderful new book, "The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter": "Food production, processing, manufacturing, distribution, and preparation consumes somewhere between 12 and 20 percent of the U.S. energy supply. Per capita, the U.S. uses more energy for food production, processing, and distribution than Asia and African use for all activities combined. Nevertheless, transportation of the food is, according to one study, responsible for only 11% of the total energy used in the food system, as compared with for example, home preparation, which uses 26%, or processing which consumes 29% of the total. Nor is all transport equal in energy use. Transporting a given amount of food by plane uses the most energy per mile, almost twice as much as road freight and 20 times more energy than sending it by ship or rail" (p. 145). "If air freight is the most energy-extravagant way of moving food, sending it by sea or rail are the most economical ways. Rice is grown in California, under irrigation, but it takes a lot of energy to grow it there--about 15 to 25 times as much energy as it takes to grow rice by low energy input methods in Bangladesh. The energy used in shipping a ton of rice from Bangladesh to San Francisco is less than difference between the amount of energy it takes to grow it in California and in Bangladesh, so if you live in San Francisco, you would save energy by buying rice that has traveled thousands of miles by sea, rather than locally grown rice." "To put the energy involved in sea transport in perspective with other energy uses, taking the average car just five extra miles to visit a local farm or market will put as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as shipping 17 pounds of onions halfway around the world, from New Zealand to London" (p. 148). "Driving 20 miles in a big SUV to pick up eggs from a local farmer and then heading off in a different direction to get fresh local produce would almost certainly be less energy-efficient than buying everything at a single supermarket, even if the food has traveled further to get there" (p. 149). As Singer and Mason point out, transportation is only 11% of the total energy used in food production--a relatively small percentage. Food that is transported by ship uses comparatively speaking very little energy. We can actually reduce total energy useage by buying food from poor countries that use little energy in food production and then using ships to transport that food across the ocean and trucks from the ports to the stores. In addition, there is the very important truth that buying food from poor countries improves the standard of living of the farmers and the workers in those poor countries. Singer and Mason are again relevant on this issue: "Today the Del Cabo cooperative (in Mexico) has about 300 small farms and earns $7 million a year in sales of organic vegetables. The farmers can send their children to school and feed their families more adequately than they could before. While many Mexican farmers are selling their land and going to live in the nation's crowded cities, the Del Cabo farmers are staying on the land. The Del Cabo cooperative stands as an ethical alternative to the idea that we should only buy locally produced food. For those of us living in the United States, Canada, Europe, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and other developed countries, a decision to buy locally produced food is a decision not to buy food from countries that are significantly worse off than our own. If Americans were all "locavores," the small farmers of Del Cabo would still be living in poverty and almost certainly still using pesticides and chemical fertilzers--unless they had sold their land for tourist developments" (p. 151-152).
12/15/2006 9:48:00 AM CST
John Mackey says ...
To Mary Anne Davis, I completely agree with your vision. Whole Foods has begun investing in artisanal producers and bringing them into our supply chain over the next several years. Thank you for the suggestion. To Joseph Serrano, Unfortunately I do not personally know of Conscious Venture Capitalists. We went the traditional route back in 1988 and sold 34% of Whole Foods for $4.5 million. It was enough money to get us to our I.P.O. in 1992 and we didn't give up control of our business to the V.C.s. I wish I could help you, but I cannot. Good luck to you. To CKM, I share your concerns about Sub-Saharan Africa. The Whole Planet Foundation has begun thinking about places we can begin working in partnership with the Grameen Trust in micro-credit projects in Africa. However, this won't happen for at least a few more years as our next countries to launch in will be India, Nicaragua, and the Honduras. We hope to get something going in Africa by 2009. By the way, I just returned from the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo where I participated in the great honoring of Muhammed Yunus and the Grameen Bank. Professor Yunus is one of my personal heroes and we remain excited about our partnership with Grameen around the world to end poverty everywhere--including Africa. To Frederick Coykendall at Rocky Mountain Pork, Please contact Andrew.Gunther@wholefoods.com if you wish to try to sell your pork in our animal compassion system. Andrew will evaluate your program and see if there is a fit with our program. To Bob Jacklin, We will need to agree to disagree about whether the world needs a new business paradigm or not. Perhaps the ideas I discuss seem obvious to you, but unfortunately that is not the case for most other people. I have lectured to M.B.A. students at over a dozen universities and the ideas of Conscious Capitalism were warmly received by the students and usually attacked by the professors. These ideas are most certainly not yet mainstream ideas in academia, the media, with economists, or in the larger society. Here is a wonderful quote by J.B.S. Haldane: "Theories have four stages of acceptance: i) this is worthless nonsense; ii) this is an interesting, but perverse, point of view. iii) this is true but quite unimportant. iv) I always said so." - J.B.S. Haldane You seem to be in category 4 in the above list. Most of the other opinions I hear fall into the other 3 categories. I also do not share your very favorable views of Wal-Mart, gambling casinos, Chik-Fil-A, and defense companies--all of which have serious ethical problems IMO and are all far from practicing Conscious Capitalism. Wal-Mart has serious issues with the treatment of their workers (poor pay and health benefits as perceived by most people including myself), gambling casinos with customer gambling addictions resulting in bankruptcy and impoverishment, Chik-Fil-A with the horrible conditions of factory farm chickens which they use, and defense companies with developing ever more efficient ways to kill people. I also have mixed opinions about Ayn Rand. While I share many of her views regarding freedom, business, capitalism,and self-responsibility, I find her uncompromising hostility against all forms of altruisim--love, care, compassion--to be elitist and actively harmful to the larger brands of Business and Capitalism (see my previous blog on "Winning the Battle for Freedom and Prosperity").
12/15/2006 10:30:40 AM CST
Bob Jacklin says ...
John: Thanks for your response. Perhaps you misunderstood many of my comments. I was not passing a judgment on Wal-Mart, defense contractors, or even Ayn Rand. I was pointing out that the premise that you are presenting a new paradigm is inaccurate. I purposely chose controversial examples such as defense contractors, gambling casinos, and Wal-Mart as because even these companies define themselves and their missions in altruistic terms (ie good, true, beautiful, or heroic). I believe "Atlas Shrugged" is an outstanding economic work that explains how the world works and how the government doesn't. No judgment on the author is implied, other than how it relates to this work. John Naisbitt wrote "Reinventing the Corporation" twenty years ago and introduced the concept of the Fortunate 500. A fortunate 500 company is not measured by its size and volume but rather by the level of service and quality provided to its customers and the quality of life enjoyed by its employees. "Managing By Values" (Blanchard and O'Connor) was written over ten years ago and discusses the need for company's to share a common vision, purpose, and set of values. The fact that many MBAs might find your views new or refreshing may speak more to your celebrity or to the fact that have very limited reading backgrounds. Every transaction between Wal-Mart and its employees is a voluntary transaction and therefore I would never judge it. While Wal-Mart does not offer the pay and benefits that our (I am a shareholder) company does, it does offer food at prices well below WFMI. Many poor and economically disadvantaged simply cannot afford our prices and our stores are not located in their neighborhoods. I am glad that Wal-Mart offers low prices. Wal-Mart employees have the right to unionize or to seek employment at WFMI in order to get a better deal. I trust them to solve their problems. Life is a series of trade-offs. The best we can hope for is an environment based on free choices, voluntary exchanges, and opportunities. I recommend "The Quest For Cosmic Justice" by Thomas Sowell for your consideration. It will, at a minimum, have you re-think some of your views. It might also shake you to your very core. It and "Spiritual Man" by Watchman Nee are way up on my list. Take Care, Bob Jacklin
12/18/2006 11:32:14 AM CST

Pages