199 Comments

Comments

James Hodges says ...
Mr. Mackey, Thank you for your educational essay and answers of clarification. Adam Smith, in his "THEORY OF MORAL SENTIMENTS" wrote that capitalism (economic freedom) and democracy (political freedom) can not exist in a country unless the people treat each other ethically and morally. We now have too much of lying, cheating and stealing by leaders at all levels of society. Smith says in absence of trust, society sinks first into anarchy and then into tyranny. George Washington, according to Jim Collins definitions, is a level 5 leader. He created a level 5 enterprise, the USA, which after over 200 years is still the freest, most prosperous, and finest country on earth. Otherwise, why would so many foreigners risk death to get here? You also exhibit the qualities of a level 5 leader. WFM sets an example of honoring our founding fathers ethical principles. If all businesses and other institutions would follow your lead , we will survive as a free nation. Otherwise our way of life so cherished by us all will die. People will act ethically if convinced it is in their best long term interest. "Visible hand" motives may be altruistic true but also are in the best selfish interest of the wealthy. For example, provide health care to the poor. If poor people get TB or some other contagious diseases they could infect the wealthy. If poor are severely undernourished, they would not be good workers. If poor get too desparate they may rise up and displace wealthy as in French Revolution. They may vote in demagogues who will tear down all private property rights. Mr. Mackey, Keep up your good work of showing others a right path to prosperity. Jim Hodges, Bellaire, Texas
02/02/2007 2:41:39 PM CST
Christophe Frochaux says ...
Dear John, I just stumbled upon your blog and was so impressed that I read it through and through. I spent 5 years in NYC and fell in love with Whole Foods before moving to Miami, where Wild Oats is a pale substitute… During my first visit, I asked one of your associates if the chicken was free of hormones… the response was shocked and full of enthusiasm at the same time! I knew I was in the right place… Whole Foods says it all, and your holistic perspective should not come as a surprise. Still, platonic ideals are seldom mentioned in a company’s business plan. Service to others, love, care, compassion: Rockwellian words in these Orwellian times… “Search for Excellence” usually sounds like a cliché, but your sincerity shines through. A capitalist with a conscience! A rare breed, but you are indeed in the company of people like Muhammad Yunus, for example. I envy your sense of purpose. I started out as an attorney in Switzerland, quit a bank to visit political prisoners for the Red Cross, manufactured whisky in Latin America and directed a shipping registry, before becoming a Realtor in Miami. I find satisfaction in helping others achieve their dreams, but I have yet to achieve my full purpose… You are quite an inspiration! So much so that after reading your blog, I purchased 100 shares… You’ve got a new friend in Miami!
02/02/2007 10:51:21 PM CST
Craig Sullivan says ...
I am accepting your invitation to respond to your Conscious Capitalism article. I hope you will bear with me. You have demonstrated that you are able to grow a company following the concentration of power corporate model exemplified by the likes of Microsoft and others. Is the "concentration of power corporate model" healthy for humanity though? Are people only worker/consumers? I appreciate the efforts of companies like Whole Foods but I believe humanity is better served by cooperation at the lowest level possible rather than a consuming competition striving toward concentration of identity and power in the hands of a few or ultimately one. Even a wise and benevolent dictator is still a dictator. Individual subjects of the best of dictators is still a subject. A large corporation ultimately is a dictatorship ruled by the majority stockholder(s). An association of smaller businesses on the other hand retain local identity and ownership but benefit from mutual support and exchange of insights and resources. For instance Whole Foods could have come along side at least some of the local businesses they bought out over the years and coached and helped them succeed in their own right. Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely. The thrill of being the CEO of an every expanding empire is undoubtedly exhilarating but is it sustainable or desirable? As a father I don't want to raise my grandchildren even by proxy. I view success as a father to see my children become good parents and grandparents in their own right. Much less do I care to abdicate the upbringing of someone else's children. I think humanity is best served by business operating in a similar manner. In my thinking a successful business man is one who reproduces himself and encourages and allows and finds his fulfillment in seeing his business "children" succeed and reproduce. His business "children" and "grandchildren" won't be exactly like him but rather they will add their own qualities and strengths to what he imparted to them and the world will be richer for it.
02/04/2007 10:23:16 AM CST
Michael Garjian says ...
Nice work, John. Some of your comments provide further support of ours as posted here on Jan 6, and Jan 13 , 2006. These posted comments offer a glimpse of the work we at E2M began on Jan 1, 2000. Becasue we are sharing the same beliefs, you might want to consider joining our E2M Economic Community rather than creating something similar but separate (FLOW), as happens so often in the left leaning progressive community. Until the progressives are as dedicated to supporting each other as are the right wing conservatives, our agenda will always risk being diminished due to its diffusiveness vs the concentrated inclusiveness exhibited by the right. Good luck in your work. Michael Garjian Founder, E2M.org
02/05/2007 6:34:36 AM CST
Sebastien Gault says ...
Dear Mr. Mackey, I also applaud your vision. After 7 years as a strategy consultant for a top NY firm, I believe that the business model you laid out in your essay goes beyond anything I have come across so far. More than an economic essay, I believe that your thoughts touch upon the philosophical and even the spiritual. The sad reality is that most corporations are only thinking of their own power as a constituency in order to extract the most financial value from other constituencies (i.e. putting pressure on suppliers to reduce their costs by “threatening” to switch to their competitors). Indeed, most corporations do not see the complete picture and thus invest very little in building truly positive relationships with their various constituencies. Do you think that most CEOs would be receptive to the idea that their various constituencies could positively influence each other and thus create more wealth as a whole. Doesn’t the business world still views business as a zero-sum game: "My opponent’s loss is my gain". That philosophy seems very valid when the only motivation of a company is generating maximum profits. I have read through your blog with great interest and passion. I look forward to reading your book when it will be released. As far as feedback, here are my 2 cents: “to convince corporations that business is NOT a zero-sum game, I think you need to provide a substantial amount of practical examples on how value creation can be acheived through good corporate actions in between constituencies. For that, I would not only provide real examples of Whole Foods success stories but also I would provide examples of possible optimization of constituency configuration in other businesses or industries. I personally get the chills reading some of your business concepts because I strongly believe in these concepts, but I think you need to respond to the CEOs and entrepreneurs that believe your model won’t work in their industry. More than being a simple observer, I have very recently committed myself to start a company based on Conscious Capitalism. Thank you for inspiring me even further with your essay !!!
02/08/2007 11:55:00 PM CST
Robert V says ...
Hello John, I would like to express my sincere appreciation for not only your truly inspiring essay "Conscious Capitalism", but also for your continued hard work and leadership with Whole Foods Market. You have made an incredible difference in the lives of millions worldwide with your positive visions and aspirations. I wish you the best for the future and, again, thank you for such wonderful contributions to our country and to our planet. I am anxiously awaiting the grand opening of WFM in Birmingham Alabama. Thank you.
02/10/2007 2:17:22 AM CST
Sam Clarkson says ...
John, I want to thank you for the excellent insight into your current thinking on capitalism and stakeholders. It is obvious to me as a former customer and a ten year investor in WFMI that your position on some of these issues has been evolving in the last year and a half, with the virtual elimination of your salary and the new and improved annual report which I have yet to read, but which I noticed has spared the color glossy photos- both sure signs of a true investor focused company. I assume that you have been reading some writings of Warren Buffett or other investors, and have made rational changes as a result. I pared back my Shares two years ago and in the middle of 2006 when the valuation of WFMI seemed unjustifiable, but held on to what for my portfolio is a still large position because no stock I own helps me feel as optimistic about the future of capitalism than Whole Foods. As you mentioned, Business is one of the most powerful forces on earth, and I advocate investment and accumulation of capital by those who care about social and environmental justice as a potentially world-changing path. (that is an aside) As an investor, however, I would like to question the conflict between WFMI's dividend policy and its dilution policy. You mentioned last year that dilution would be kept below 10%, which is to my opinion, an astronomical figure. With a 1% dividend yield (now 1.6%) and any dilution greater than 1.6% WFMI management essentially forces me to pay taxes on a dividend while my ownership stake diminishes. with an ill-timed dividend like last year's special dividend, which you mentioned on a conference call that we could choose whether or not to reinvest, the results were horrid for investors like me who had our shares on automatic reinvest. (due to faith in the company I guess, but now I wonder what I was thinking.) That's all water under the bridge now, but for the future, let me give you my thumbnail valuation of wfmi in 2011: you have estimated 12 B in sales for 2010 and have a 4% profit margin. I'm a conservative investor, and so I'll say that if we hit a recession, it might be more like 10 B, which makes for 400 million in net profit. At a 20X multiple - fairly reasonable for a high class grocer with reasonable growth prospects, WFMI would be worth 8 billion, minimum at the end of 2010. With today's new and improved market cap of around 6.8 billion, investors can look for a gain of 17% over just under four years, or about 5% per year, which is absolutely a conservative valuation for 2011 if everything goes right, and there is NO dilution. So, WFMI as an investment today, even at a significantly lower price than early 2006 is a questionable investment if dilution is anywhere near 10% annually, in fact, if dilution is 17% or more over four years, we could be easily looking at a mid to high forties share price in 2011, or lower. As you see, the dilution and dividend policies are in conflict, essentially robbing Peter to pay Paul, and forcing Paul to pay taxes at the same time. The news of the wild oats buyout being funded with debt, not stock leads me to believe that perhaps you are thinking about this, and I hope that is the case. As for the conflict between dividends and dilution, I hope one or both activities will be curtailed as soon as possible. (I said "former" customer because I live in Santa Cruz CA, and the anti-corporate wing of our community has evidently prevented Whole Foods' entry into my community, but I expect you are working on that) As I said, I love owning a part of a fabulous company, and I applaud you in continuing to make it better. Thank you for reshaping our world and the world of business. I look forward to being able to shop at Whole Foods again soon.---Keep up the acquisitions. :)
02/21/2007 8:42:39 PM CST
Charles Mukuka says ...
I would like to applaud John and the entire WFM leadership team for the big Strategic and bold move on Wild Oats. As you declared on 60 minutes interview with Dan Rather - we now can see how compeititive you are and it does pay to be a spirited competitor. At least one competitor is down as the WFM faces rising challenges from conventional chains with refined and proven supply chains and distrubution networks and tries to defend and retain its competitive and market position especially in the organic segment. Working on run down Wild Oats stores will be a big undertaking especially if they are to meet the WFM standards. Wall Street today is at least in favor of the move and hopefully this signals a move in the right direction. All the best and look forward to shopping in the newly acquired stores under WFM banner...
02/22/2007 12:01:55 PM CST
dylan says ...
john- hello. i am a vegan, as are you. and i just wanted to let you know that i dumpster dive your stores on a regular basis, and have been for years and years. it is insane to me to let good food go to waste. i've used the dumpstered food to make vegan meals for the homeless every week for over 3 years, as well as fed myself. i buy food that i don't find in a dumpster, such as nutritional yeast, peanut butter, etc... anyway, it has become MUCH harder to access your dumpsters in recent years, and that makes me sad. with your recent vegan transition, i thought maybe you'd be interested in the idea of trying to make it a policy to make dumpsters easily accessable for those without the money to buy all their food and/or the ecological consciousness to not let good food go to waste. the main problem is, in one word, compactors. those machines smash the trash and hold it hostage from those who could use it. i recognize it may be somewhat cheaper than a row of dumpsters, but it makes such a huge difference in many people's lives. that is part of what i'd consider Conscious Capitalism. I hope you take these comments seriously. i'd be happy to act as a consultant on this issue for free if it meant more access to whole foods discarded food for the people who depend on it and need it. thank you for your consideration.
02/22/2007 6:39:50 PM CST
Cherie J. Anderson says ...
Mr. Mackey, I cannot find an email address to send a general inquiry to your store, so I will put my thoughts/comments on here. I do shop at Whole Foods at the present time, and, in fact, probably spend around $5,000-plus a year at WF and other health food stores. I am bothered by a quote on one of your grocery bags, "Food in its purest form." As far as I can tell, Whole Foods still sells meat and dairy/egg items. If you consider these items pure as in non-violent and non-exploitative, you are mistaken, and I hope you do research exactly how these items, "organic," "free-range," or not, are obtained. If you consider these items to be pure in that they are food in its most natural, beautiful, and nutritionally-balanced form, let's not forget what these animals eat: plants. This comment is not asking Whole Foods to stop selling meat and dairy items; however, let's at least be upfront about what foods are pure and which cause harm to sentient beings.
02/23/2007 9:04:56 AM CST
Paula says ...
Hi John, a couple of comments: I read the Tom Peters website regularly, and the current "Cool Friend" interview is with Rod Beckstrom, one of the authors of "The Starfish and The Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations." Read the interview (and, if possible, the book). I think it's very pertinent when you consider how Whole Foods organizes itself going forward. I live in Santa Fe, NM, where the first Wild Oats outside Colorado opened in 1991. So my feelings about W.F.'s acquisition of W.O. are mixed. I'm glad it was you and not (say) Albertson's. On the other hand, although I shop frequently at both stores, I've relied on W.O. for my staples (bread, granola, yogurt, fruit juice, etc.) because they're usually pricier at W.F. If prices go up as a result of the merger, I'll have to look elsewhere for them. We do have other options here (e.g., La Montanita Co-Op), so I hope you're aware that you can't count on picking up all the current W.O. customers.
02/23/2007 1:09:08 PM CST
Patricia says ...
Mr. Mackey: I am following up on part of a response that you gave on November 12, 2006, to the comments of Nancy Harrison that were posted on November 11. I read through the remaining comments to "Conscious Capitalism" and did not see any follow up to this by Ms. Harrison or anyone else. You said: "What restrictions on behaviour do individuals have that corporations don't have? I'm not aware of any. Please point 3 good examples out. Thanks." 1. Individuals generally do not have the right to unilaterally modify the terms of written agreements in their own favor- with terms that apply retroactively. The obvious example is credit card agreements with upward modification of interest rates and penalty fees. The latest twist seems to be that when the companies reduce the rate after several months of on-time payments, they try to leave the penalty rate applicable to the balance with the lower rate applicable only to new purchases. So why wasn't the same reasoning applicable when the penalty interest rate was imposed on the entire existing balance? I suppose that an individual could attempt to draft contracts with the right to unilaterally modify the terms, but it would be subject to the review of a court. The restrictions on the right to sue in agreements with consumers, such as those of the banking/credit card companies, prevents consumers from challenging fairness and legality of the unilateral modifications to the agreements. 2. Restriction on the right to sue. "Tort reform" seems to be an effort directed by corporations solely against individuals. Nominally, this is an effort by companies to prevent "frivolous" law suits. There does not seem to be a comparable effort to prevent corporations from pursuing frivolous claims, such as those which stifle potential competitors, or frivolous defenses to claims from consumers. Corporations expect to be able to avail themselves of all of their legal rights and defenses in a court of law. 3. Ability to discharge debt. The changes in the bankruptcy laws were intended to make it more difficult for individuals to relieve themselves of their financial obligations. Corporations are using bankruptcy and other methods to discharge their obligations to retirees for pensions and health benefits.
02/23/2007 2:51:44 PM CST
ieva swanson, St. Louis says ...
Dear Mr. Mackey, I have read your essay, and would like to offer my suggestions about your writing and ideas. It has been a few months since you offered your essay for consideration on your blog, and I have read the many replies to your work. I do not think that the suggestions that occurred to me have been offered yet, and if you are still interested in constructive feedback, I hope that my words will be worth your time to read. I thought you might like this quote: "Most successful business people do not start out in life thinking that this is what they want to do. Their entrepreneurial ideas spring from a deep immersion in some occupation, hobby, or other pursuit. Spurred by something missing in the world, the entrepreneur begins to think about and envision a product or a service. The entrepreneur is often the first one to spot the opening, and if things work out that person will have a successful business. "When I started out in the natural food business, I believed that if I could see the wisdom of changing my eating habits, there were sufficient numbers of people who would also figure out the advantages of natural food. My business would grow in response to that awareness and be ready to serve those needs. "People intuitively understand that a good business enhances the lives of all who work within it, and enriches the lives of all those who are touched by it. I opened my store in Boston because I needed good food-- pure and simple. That operation was a vital part of me. Likewise, the business you can succeed with is distinctly and utterly you and yours. It is unlike any other business in the world. Being in business is not about making money. It is a way to become who you are." I love this passage for its warm tone. The ideas, similar to yours, ring true. Although I've never met him, I can visualize the man who wrote it, and I feel like he would be a good person to have join my family for dinner and conversation some night. I bet that you are also someone who would make a good dinner companion, but the voice of John-the-Good-Companion was absent from this essay. Overall, when I read your essay I was troubled by the tone of your writing. This led me to wonder who the essay is primarily written for-- who are you trying to reach? Is your audience really just the few people who "may create" "future businesses"? When you have defined your audience, what should that audience do with your ideas next? Although you slip in the line "build upon the Whole Foods Market model...as part of a new paradigm" into your first section, the impact of your essay's conclusion is diluted. In the end, you share with your unspecified audience that "corporations must rethink". Do you have a plan that will apply to both brand-new entrepreneurs and experienced corporate CEO in at the apex of their careers? The author I quoted above spends most of his first chapter just on identifying his audience. Here's an abbreviated sample of how he defines his audience and his end goal in writing a book: "I want to demystify...with a book that illustrates how the successful business is an expression of a person. "I do not arbitrarily restrict my focus to small businesses... the needs of and differences among large, medium, and small businesses are less distinct than we sometimes suppose. Within the structure of every company or conglomerate there are ten, fifty, five hundred, even a thousand units in the big business that function as small businesses... There's no reason why every department in a corporation can't be a well-run small business. "This book is written for that corporate audience, too. Most of us in businesses large or small have the same problems and similar means at our disposal to solve them: energy, ingenuity, and common sense. Big businesses sometimes get bogged down in procedures, policies, and flow charts, but when the problems are solved as opposed to shuffled, I believe they are solved by people using their heads, not handbooks. "We must learn how to grow our businesses-- small, large, and small-within-large--more successfully and more humanely..." Mr. Mackey, when your writing clearly answers the questions of who you are writing for, why you are writing, and what action you require of your reader, your tone may start to improve as well. As it stands, I found it veered toward the condescending, which is hard going on any audience you might care to reach. You yourself pointed out that the essay may take "extended time and concentration" to read. For me, it didn't take concentration to read; it took the discipline of a student who reads to pass the exam. I suspect this has less to do with the complexity of your ideas than a failure to allow your natural voice to come through in your writing. (As for the time it takes to read your writing, what of it? Time is nothing to a hooked reader-- just look at any Harry Potter fan. You can hook your reader far better with your true voice, subject matter notwithstanding.) You wrote that your essay is but one chapter of what you hope to write. Depending on what else you intend to write and why, you may still want to keep this chapter, but you may want to revise your sections about a "new paradigm" and "the purpose of business". There is a great deal of overlap in your "new" ideas with ideas already written about. The passages above come from a book, published in 1986, that I think puts forward many or all of the ideas in your essay. As in your own essay, the author focuses chapters on the purpose of business, and how values steer and stimulate business. The first chapter, from which the quotes I copied are taken, is titled "Something You Live to Do". He is already into the "purpose of business" part of your essay with the chapter title alone, but with greater use of imagery. Like you, he uses his own companies as models for presenting his ideas, but then he goes on to write just as extensively about Patagonia, Ben & Jerry's, University National Bank of Palo Alto, California, Midas Muffler, and many others. He makes no claims for a "new paradigm for business", but illustrates how true-hearted ideals make it into business practice, and demonstrates how this translates into success. The fact that he found many other businesses apart from his own to illustrate the ideas in his book provides the reader with more fun anecdotes, plus the reassurance that the ideas he offers the reader are not original to him exclusively, or proven only by him. The good business ideas he shares are out there in all forms. They really work. You probably also can illustrate your ideas from your own experience and that of your friends and mentors, and summarize them for the reader's application. Showing, not telling, is often a mantra in writing because being able to see the author's experience stays with the reader so effectively. Word paintings would help mitigate the talking-down tone of much of your essay, and be far more fun to "look" at than actual corporate graphics: "To see the reward of commerce as money and the risk of commerce as failure is to see nothing at all. The bottom line is down where it belongs--at the bottom." How much work you want to put into revising this essay for publication may depend heavily on what else you intend to cover in your book. Ever heard of Paul Hawken? You may even have conducted business with the first company he founded, Erewhon, as one of your own vendors. He has written several books. I quoted from Growing a Business, which you might want to read as you think about what you would most like to accomplish with your books. It wouldn't necessarily be a problem to overlap some of the same material, since you have your own story to tell, but if he covers all you wish to and more, you may find it hard to get published. That you have a true a real voice to convey your ideas I do not doubt. I very much would like to read what you have to say, precisely because you are the CEO of Whole Foods. Your business achievement is like making the American Olympic Food Team. That I want to read your ideas well-crafted in your own voice, fresh, aware of what has come before, and a real contribution to the world is a mighty tall order. But I do want it. Like Micheal Pollan wants real reformation. If you decide to really go for it, we will all be cheering you, whether or not you bring home the gold, silver, or bronze.
02/23/2007 3:38:08 PM CST
Joshua Wallis says ...
I'm always stuck between being a dentist and going into business, and articles like these make want to do the latter. Capitalism, is an ideal system of freedom, in which only mutual exchange takes place and your article explains it well. You are making a good to great business, environmentally conscious entreprise, and you run the business like a berkshire hathaway manager. I prophecies that Whole Foods will be one the great success stories of this decade and it's people like you who make me think there is meaning in life. If you ever need employees in Flagstaff, Arizona - please send me an e-mail.
02/24/2007 4:10:26 AM CST
Elad Levinson says ...
Dear John and the community of readers and responders, My comments have little to do with the ideas of Conscious Capitalism (CC) and more to do with the requirements to be able to think, feel and act according to the desirable possibilities inherent in CC. 40 years of working in the domains of consciousness raising, leadership development and organizational development brings a certain bird's eye view into the difference between speaking about something abstract and being able to embody the truth of it. I love what is said here, the context of authenticity and trasparency is inspiring. I feel honored to be inside the imagination, heart and soul of a distinguished American Conscious Capitalist. But, how do you take these ides and make them real- what is it we are talking about- "conscious" and consciousness. I will advocate for three points of view in my response: 1. Central to Consciousness is skill development- in most consciousness raising disciplines there are practices that you study and repeat day after day to acheive a way of thinking, acting and being that is consistent with the philosophy and psychology of the field of study you pursue. My advocacy is for those of us who are committed to this declaration of a movement of people to bring about a revolution in capitalism that integrates consciousness into business (NPO or For Profit) we embody a tool set and competencies that we can transfer to others so that the movement is not abstract but grounded in the flesh/earth as action. 2. I assert that the tools and skills that must be developed for this movement to be sustainable are both internal and external in nature. I believe that you must be able, as HH the Dalai Lama has spoken for, Tame our destructive emotions like greed and hatred while cultivating emotions as compassion, loving kindness and generosity. To be able to embody consciousness- in- action you must have tools and skills that cause you to be an excellent listener and to speak with respect, clarity and authenticity. 3. A key principle underlying the embodiment of consciousness in capitalism is collaboration. Integrated deeply in Whole Foods success is a worldview, a skill set, an attitude of collaboration but it is invisible to those who do not collaborate as a natural competency. I want to draw attention to the foundation of true stakeholder involvement, passionate love for your company, shareholder delight in the financial results and the context for this blog- it is at heart a collaborative way of being. Collaboration takes four forms in CC- the hands of collaborative action, the heart of collaborative attitude, the mind of strategic collaboration and the soul and spirit of collaboration in people's desire to make significant positive contributions daily to the people around them, their communities and the world. I would love to engage in any conversation about what you have found are the top few skills and tools that cause consciousness to be raised, collaboration to be firm and fundamental or any other reposne you may have to my contribution.
02/25/2007 10:02:46 AM CST
Laureen Prophett says ...
Dear Mr. Mackey, I have read your blog with great interest. I have a deep respect for Whole Foods and its vision. My family and I have been shopping at your stores for many years. I would like to echo Mr. Levinson in that I would love to engage further in this conversation. Our world and our work ethic is desperately in need of a deepening and ever expanding paradigm when it comes to consciousness, collaboration, and ethical entrepreneurial leadership. I am a new vendor for Whole Foods in Ann Arbor. I am also an artist. I have had the most remarkable experience working with the staff at that store. I also enjoy shopping there. Recently, however, I visited your store in the Palm Beach area. My family and I were so offended by the tone of the staff and the attitude of the Whole Body buyer that I felt that I must write. In general, they were uninterested, unhelpful and somewhat sarcastic. After years of shopping at your stores, we were shocked. And then we realized that this is a good thing! You and your company have developed a business model that reaches your customers by working with them, honoring them, and offering quality products that contribute to change in our world. It is entirely rare. Thank you for you efforts. We are very grateful for your stores. The Palm Beach store must have been having a very bad hair day. Sincerely, Laureen Prophett
02/26/2007 10:35:31 AM CST
Stan Bies says ...
As a Whole Foods Customer, Shareholder and a transactional business lawyer for over 30 years I agree in principle with your approach to the topics addressed in your paper. If I were running a business I hope I would have the same attitude. Specifically, I agree that optimizing the health and value of the adaptive system is the key to long term value as opposed to a 100% "profit in this quarter" mandate which can be quite destructive. All in all I am with you but let me pass on a couple of tangential thoughts. 1. It has always seemed to me that a discussions of "corporations" sometimes is misleading because the corporate persona allows people to avoid personal responsibility for their actions. Corporations are sometimes a vehicle for great achievement and service, sometimes an excuse for unfeeling exploitation, you know, "the corporation made me do it" excuse, sometimes an excuse for employee theft and vendor fraud "who am I hurting ? Corporations don't feel." As you rightly highlight during the foundation stage the corporation is the alter ego of a person, the entrepreneur, who likely was driven by many motivations, probably following a "great" dream that included more than $$$. However once that founder moves on many times a management stage follows and that is where once again the people in charge will do what is in their best interest. Those interests may be quite different from the Founder. Can you build a corporation with a culture so overwhelming that it will survive self centered management. Not easily that is for sure. Corporations are only as good as the people involved with them. I think there is more than a growing distrust of business. There is a growing distrust of people. 2. Shareholders, as you say, from a legal perspective are entitled to profits and have some influence on management but would you agree that investors today in traded companies define their interest more in terms of the market value of their stock ? That to me leads to the pressure for short term profits (whatever "profits" means) and a Las Vegas approach to investing. I own Whole Foods because I feel I am somehow supporting a responsible organization and somehow a part of your team. However that is probably a minority approach. It would be interesting to know if more holistic investors can be targeted by more enlightened companies. Again I think the approach is a long term winner not a charity but some education is probably needed. I can't be excited about a team until I learn how we are going to play the game the right way and win. 3. I think the overall approach works with branded products but can it work with fungible goods like those found in the apparel industry ? I am somewhat familiar with the sweatshop issue and an organization like the WRC will make credible arguments that a lowest price only wins, customer driven market, has driven reputable companies to do disreputable things. Could you use a Grameen Bank type approach to develop a business paradigm for an industry that seems unable to deal with the negative impacts of globalization? Interesting huh ? Thanks for giving me the outlet to ramble. By the way my Whole Foods needs more parking :). Stan
02/27/2007 4:31:45 PM CST
-P says ...
I appreciate the sentiment of your argument, but it is flawed. There are too many assumptions and unstated premises. Let me point out a few. First, you state that a Doctor's purpose is to heal sick people, and not maximize profits. This is a little tidy. Yes, the definition of a doctor is to practice medicine, but the unstated purpose for the practice of medicine, or law as you state as well in regards to a lawyer is to make money (profit) by practicing medicine or law. Would the doctor or lawyer practice their disciplines if it was run at a loss? Compensation is the engine of all business. The success of any businiss is defined by it's ability to profit. I am sure that the entrepreneurs that you have met and speak of all share one commonality; they desired to make money doing what they wanted to do. Also, being that you work in the grocery industry, I am sure that you are aware that food and water are necessary for life, therefore the theory of voluntary exchange does not factor in. People need to eat, which means that have to buy food. Now, the growing problem in the grocery industry is the loss of the alternative marketplace. Companies are consolidating to increase buying power to either offer lower prices to the consumer, or to maximize thier profits. The local grocery stores are being bought up by holding companies. Your company recently purchased it's primary competitor. Why did you do this? How does this fit in to your ethical vision? According to the press, this purchase was made to increase your share in a competitive marketplace. And, what are the players in this marketplace competing for? To be the most ethical company? If your customer is not satisfied, where can he or she turn to? With no alternative, there can be no voluntary exchange. Again, I appreciate the sentiment of your paper. You should be applauded for your success and how you handle your company. However, perhaps you should leave economic theory to the philosophers, or at least recognize that your actions may betray your theories.
02/28/2007 2:36:04 PM CST
Jonathan Baty says ...
One thing I have always evaluated when looking at lifecycle costs of buying organic foods and eating healthy, is the reduction of health care costs. You are what you eat. Thanks for being sincerely interested and active in evolving concious capitalism! Cheers.
03/01/2007 12:39:53 AM CST
Brent Eubanks says ...
Mr. Mackey, I saw your conversation with Michael Pollan a couple of days ago. Very, very interesting, and inspirational. A little background: Philosophically, I am what could best be described as a green libertarian. I am also an engineer, who switched from aerospace to renewable energy and green building design, based on my concern for the environment. Although my study of sustainability is strongly focused on technical solutions, I am interested in all the "system conditions for sustainability" (to borrow a phrase from the Natural Step), including those that apply to businesses. As a green libertarian, I am in agreement with many of the things you say, and I believe that what you call "conscious capitalism" represents a path for business that is both morally and financially relevant in an era of shrinking natural resources. However, I think that there is a very important aspect to conscious capitalism that you do not explicitly include, although you discuss it in other contexts. I am speaking of the entrepreneurial attitude, that which allows you to appreciate Pollan and your other critics because they keep you from becoming complacent and challenge you to grow, change, and improve. I say that this attitude is essential to conscious capitalism because, looking around me, many (perhaps most) of the most environmentally, legally, and socially destructive behaviors perpetuated by large, established corporations appear to be motivated by a desire to avoid change and the associated risk. Why else do well-established companies hold on so tightly to outmoded technologies, products, and business models? Why do they seek to regulations to prevent innovation, rather than embracing the change as an opportunity for growth and market advantage? It seems to me that entrepreneurial companies do, in fact, seek to maximize profit through innovation. But non-entrepreneurial companies do not seek maximum profit. They seek the path of profitable least risk. And they represent the majority, in terms of size and influence, if not in terms of number.
03/01/2007 3:37:46 PM CST
Bruce Cahan says ...
Dear John: I am creating a bank for "Conscious Consumerism" to grow regional "sustainable resiliency™" or SR. Many elements of "Conscious Consumerism" are infused as part of my proposed Bank's mission and approach. The bottom line is that new forms of banking are required to amplify each individual's environmental and social values through commerce. Likewise, transparent accountability metrics for sustainability and resiliency are in their infancy, with innovations and standards lagging behind consumers' demands for quality assurance and responsible corporate governance. Grameen Bank is a fantastic example of banking's power to enable latent in situ capacities and economies. There are many forms of "microfinance" [including what I've called "socially-responsive debt" (SRD)] that traditional banks have yet to offer. If you or others want to talk about this further, please feel free to email me. Best regards, Bruce Cahan (A loyal Whole Foods customer in Palo Alto!)
03/02/2007 6:10:47 PM CST
li an says ...
Dear John Mackey- I apologize to give you the following critique while having read only portions of your general thinking. You have mentioned your "considerable" debating skills. The sheer volume of books you've read (and I have not)that you cite as foundation cornerstones for your belief system or as blocks of thought you reject and suggest are parts of the Left's attempt and trendsetting outlays in its albeit anscent and young stage (much like you yourself when young were a part of it, long hair and all) . . . I cannot share nontheless with you the background you do, for I did not read what you did. I would likd to suggest that you are a layman-businessman at least as far as philosophy and economics are concerned. That is to say, as far as your understanding of 'capitalism' (e.g. as a polar opposite and enemy of 'socialism', your perspective is that of a businessman. The new verb "to brand" is a strong part of your vocabulary and is a cornerstone of the rubric of your thoughts and ideas with regard to things like the "freedom movement" (which as I guess it, is the WTO movement to expand the liberalization of trade, a matter that relates 95% to tarrifs and trade, and the rest to standards of trade relations that are intended to stabilize and assist in allowing businesses to compete freely in an open marketplace with as little control or blockage or interference from local governments or regionally sovereign entities except as established and standarized by the WTO or other FTA (regional Free Trade Agreement (negotiated, in the the US, by the Dept. of Commerce which is responsive to and exclusively lobbied by, big business). You Michael, seem in you ideas on corporations to have gained most of your thinking from a process you have undergone in your life and times which can be called "if you can't beat them, join them". You may have been "idealistic" and thought you were a leftist, but you discovered that when you tried to run a grocery store that you were a man in business (perhaps your pre-hippy culture parents and others who formed you as a child, and were examples to you, taught you about business, gave you capital, and there is more to you anyway than having worn long hair for a few years; only some 'hippies' were educated AND political or qualified thinkers on the subjct of economics; nearly none were communists! Living on a commune had nothing to do with Mao Tse Tung; you were like your compatriots in your youth, idealistic, but just kids, and then went on with your life as a regular American. The movement was idealistic, but nobody found they could retain their allegiance once making a living became paramount as they got older, and the pendulum swung back, Reagan got two terms, the USSR and Berlin Wall fell, Hippy became a reviled word, as in "dirty hippy", children of hippies grew up and rejected the nonsense and irresponsibility of that parent generation. But here is you, a businessman who knows his demographic of his generation and that there are values which were valid and which if tapped into are a consumer demand waiting to be capitalized upon. Here's the thing: You say, Michael, that you want to change the world by leading through business. All very well and fine: Jobs are created, corporate culture when enlightened provides better living conditions for employees, better quality of life through making available great stuff, consciousness raising through information, a book section a personal care section, a yoga section, all in your organically certified store, the whole store certified, not the labeled produce any more. And this is your baby; you're going like Starbucks gangbusters! By 2010 will do HOW many billions of dollars and with the best profit margin in the industry (but there is no greed here, no; recently you raised salary ranges - for your executive - to match that for executives in the business world, to be competitive so you would be able to attract and retain executive level thinkers and doers- all of whom are good at the newspeak vacabulary and can use brand as a verb with great fluidity- Whole Foods is undoubtedly a great success as a business and as a corporation. You are a millionaire. You have a large house and likely more than one house. You have a very nice car or two. They may even be hybrids, I don't know. Arnold says he had his Hummer hybridized, a great idea for those who might just feel an SUV is what they want to drive. You are not greedy, though, not among OTHERS in your line of work, CEO and successful founder of a multinational corporation. But the values of the hippy idealistic as they are/were have fewer needs; a teepee will do. A kitchen garden will do. A quiet life will do. Ambition to be big, to gain more and more, do more and more is not so rationalized as the rational thing that must be done in life, once sustenance and quaint comfort is there. If there is ambition, it is spiritual, to do GOOD in the world; there is bad there the young idealist saw. The pretty forests falling, maybe the woods where you played as a child one awful day were razed and became a parking lot for a strip mall. Polar bears are going extinct. 60% of human beings in the world do not have clean uncontaminated water to drink. There are only 5 media companies left due to monopoly happening. There are only 5 strains of grains left or varieties of wheat and corn, all the others have been eliminated by agribusinesses putting corn farmers out of business and off their ancestral farms in Mexico and elsewhere, so they can profit off their high-yield (low pest resistance) bio-engineered seeds and farm the land with combines a hundred yards wide in a swath, remove the family farms and knock down the old farmhouses, rip out the windbreak hedgerows to let the big combines in, eliminate the molds and earthworms and salamanders and funguses that used to grow in the rich soils and streambanks and woodsy section in and around the farms where cattle used to graze on green fields and not on concrete or manure mudholes be "fattened" with antibiotic drenched foodstuffs such as the sweepings off of slaughterhouse floors - for a cow to eat! These things the idealistic kid who started to think something was real darn fishy about the powers that be that would also send him to war before he could vote no matter what he might feel about that because there was a draft. And so the idealism got all lumped in together in a general rebellious time against the system because it bit a little too close to home when it came to dying like that, too. So we had the crazy 60's, because these kids were really clueless, and plus they dropped out of school and they experimented with psychedelics and mystical powers as they tried to flee from all these horrible things they saw in the real world. And ultimately they sold out, because they had no answers, or had some, but had to compromise on a lot of what they had felt when they rebelled and rejected the whole damn system lock stock and barrel. The issue of eating food that is healthy, that's pretyy personal so as far as that goes, they stuck to it and maybe they let the rest of their beefs just go by the wayside, shrug, or vote, if its ever relevant, or give to Save the Children for a few years. Now you, MIchael are a better hero, you have made a difference and have a new track going: maybe we don't have to throw out the baby (big business?) with the bath water, do not have to sell out completely. Maybe, you have a third way: Brand big free trade business as Healthy and Organic! As spiritual and transcendant! As compassionate and environmentally responsible! As socially ethical and jobs creating! Well, at least its an improvement, and its better by along shot than doing nothing, and plus, what is wrong with success? That's right, getting rich. This is still a GOOD thing, and you play the game with becoming a publicly traded corporation, now with investors who run the show (they pretty much want to see their stock go up). So its all capitalist, capitalism. And is their anything WRONG with that? Is there any idealism there, really though? Or is it all (ALL) really, Michael, about growth, money, pride (even), power (yes, soaring high on a high- a human thing to do when the wind is in your sails!) But whatever happened to the "issues" (a tiny little corner of your whole website, which is very brief to boot and then sends the surfer over to the FDA, known to be the great and honorable champion of safe drugs safe food additives, safe silicone gel breast implants, and protector of the self interests, selfish profiteering profit incentive driven driven individuals in the massive and gigantic corporate culture of executives and their wives who invest their fat figures (6, 7, even 8) in the stock market and have more than one large house in which to be, to meditate, eat, and do yoga. If you do discern some sarcasm it is only because you too cannot deny this is all merely desciptive of incidental reality. I am saddened that you seem to spend no time any more (or if you do, its a tiny percentage) directing your considerable capacity for dabate and effort, drive and determination, vision and ability to garner for yourself influentiality (now I can coin a new word, not just some other bloke in the marketing and advertizing field) on protecing the hope of success in acheiving the protection of our food supply from non-organic contamination. You allow the status quo to be the 2002 FDA ruling on labeling things organic which is a ridiculous emasculation of the cause and need for success here. What does it mean that the USDA "organic" seal is so meaningless that it is not "mandatory" (huh? it should be a point of bragging to bear this seal)and is the only seal that can be affixed whether the goods are 100%, 95% or no less than 70% made of organic ingredients. And when not 100%, the rule for organic labeling (which would read "Organic" in case of the 70-95% foods, but only a fine print seeker would ever know that this does NOT mean that its "100%" organic--what kind of Orwellian newspeak deceptive garbage nonsense is THAT?) states that the remaining percentage of the ingredients of the foodstuff mustconsist of nonagricultural substances approved on the USDA's National List, or consist of non-organically produced agricultural products that are not commercially available in organic form. Oh, but, it can all be labeled "Organic". Who decided the public should be served by doing THIS? Or, who was it who had the more sway to see to it that some interests other than the public's was what was deemed to have an importance superceding the interest of the person who wants to eat food that does not have any genetically modified anything, nor any pesticides nor herbicides nor hormones nor any thing unnatural as it was on the table for George Washington, whatsoever. Nope, that objective is not what has been achieved, and not only that, there is active deceiption: thepublic will read a label stating it has been inspected by an authorized certifying agent to be authorized to be labeled as organic, but it is not. Not organic. It has contaminated ingredients in it. And if there are 10 ingredients, is 70% seven of them, or is 70% 70 grams of 100 of the foodstuff? And are either one of these percentages really reflective of any measurement of the purity with regard to being farmed and handled without contamination from anything unnatural (as to be expressed as food the way it was before the technological "advances" brought unnatural farming practices into being--Abe Lincoln, my grandparents, even the hippies had produce at least that only cost pennies and was not genetically tampered with). And what pray tell does it really mean you are a certified store? You sell (and label, thank you) "conventionally grown" produce, so what is so "organic" about you? That you label it? But what does this label mean? ANd haven't you sold out, because you do not CARE that the original meaning of 'organic' does NOT allow or permit obfuscation and contamination by gradients, admixtures of taints and degradings. So, while you fancy yourself a great Adam Smith of the new age, methinks you've just sold out no more. YOu want to satisfy who? Your stock holders? So you and they can get richer? Pray tell, are you materially satisfied personally, or is it now still very much a thing you like to do, to see your own personal net worth grow? Are you comfortable, do you have enough to eat? Do you have a roof over your head? Can you send your children to college. Can you pay your doctor if something bad should happen? Really? All that? Can you take a trip around the world, can you sponsor a charity of your choice, too? Well, do you have enough? What is your central goal in life? Is it to protect the food supply from degradation? Is it even to protect the soils, or the food animals? To what degree is this your goal? Are there other goals that supercede and call for compromise to your customers, who will not have another organic market to choose from because you have put them out of business? Is branding, as a tool of advertising and marketing an offensive word to be the one in use by an advocate at the forefront of business as an empowerment of social change and other change (healthy food, uncontaminated and fully organic)offensive because branding is unrelated to content or quality, but rather to the perception of these by the consumer. I posit that the consumer should be seen by you to be your fellow man, not as "the consumer" and that branding should have not already replaced the mission to advance the organic movement by recognizing the power of the popularity of the desire to eat only such food among the public at large. Its a no brainer, NOBODY wants to eat or feed their children anything BUT right food, and none of that awful garbage created for profits is right food. (Even the saffron rice they like to cite as stopping starvation because though GM it produces more per acre, is a flawed argument-- because all the dangers of GM (they do not know that they change OTHER things that they do not intend to when they engineer genetically. This is clear in that they want a long shelf life, they want a tomato and a plum that they can transport and warehouse a bit more, that won't bruise or spoil, and they want that fruit to be big in size and rich in colorful appearance, and they succeeded by GM-ing it. It was not their objective to make it taste like sawdust, or be mealy, but it IS. There are effects and chages - unwholesome - they do intend and don't intend. They use the genes of bacteria and animals on plants. This is disgusting, and it tastes bad, but what is it lacking in nutrition? What is it lacking in the full God - engineered balance of micronutirents they haven't even discovered yet? THey can identify the active ingredient in a medicinal herb, but often it needs the whole herb intact to be safe and balanced non toxic at higher dosages or what have you, because of other things in the plant, the whole plant. THose other things represent what is being genetically lost or altered or destroyed, or even at waht level something else could be now appearing that is insidious, harmful, cause obesity, diabetes, autism, you have to understand the dire importance of shutting them DOWN entirely, and as you, MIchael, gain in power and wealth and success, it is my wish that you will find your power able to stand stalwart in your idealism, the righteousness of what is right, no matter how big the Goliath don't join them, be David, to the end. Work to make the whole WORLD organic once more. Prices willl come down, ways will be changed: it is not necessary to poison ourselves, our animals, our food, our environment, our ecosystems, our pollens. If I have been insulting, it is to provoke you to return and remain true, and if I have underestimated your commitment, be glad, I am on your side then, and you want the whole world to be on your side.
03/06/2007 4:44:36 PM CST
Ann G. Kramer says ...
Dear John, As I’ve followed this thread about Conscious Capitalism/Conscious consumption, I am prompted to write. While I give support to you that if we’re going to have a consumer economy—a conscious capitalistic system certainly is preferable to the current capitalistic model—or that of any of the other ‘consumer economies’ that get bandied about—communism, socialism, fascism, etc. All of these economies are consumption economies—really the only difference between any of them is the distribution methods—capitalism distributes on a supposed ‘free-market’, communism is a centralized government etc. But what if a consumer economy—conscious or otherwise, isn’t the only option? In fact, what if we discovered it isn’t even our best option? Yes, we are all well steeped in the consumer economy—so much so that it seems as if it is the only way to be. In the early 1900’s, the idea of ‘insatiable desire’ was implanted in our culture through the intense rise of advertising—because insatiable desire was considered a cure all for an ever rising/falling economic system that depended on consumers continuing to consume. When they were erratic in consuming, depressions/recession ensued—at least in the money flow. I can’t blame our forefathers because from their perspective this looked like the best choice. Consuming led to money flow which led to more consuming and if we could keep this going on a fairly constant flow, depressions, recessions and economic chaos would be a thing of the past. And consume we did and as we consumed the money flowed. Over the last 100 years we have perfected a consumer economy, efficiently setting up a supply/demand (insatiable desire + money = demand—please note, “demand” does not necessarily mean “need”). While this option looked like the best from a 1900’s view of the world—world population 2 billion and seemingly unlimited resource availability—who could ever imagine an end in sight. But now with almost 7 billion people and resources being maxed, things will have to change. As we all can see now, this direction has come at a huge cost. We’ve created a world that is good for the production of products, services and the flow of capital—but it is not a world that is good for all humans, the earth, water, air, animals. In that efficiency of whatever makes money is good, we’ve also allowed businesses to externalizes the ‘costs’ on humans/earth/animals instead of insisting that they operate on a full cost accounting method—which had that been incorporated in the consumer economy would have surely shifted many of the business practices of the day. To that, I then ask the question—what if instead of a consumer economy, we instead created a whole life economy? It would serve a primary need of ‘life’—relationships, species diversity, health, etc. instead of the current primary need of money. Yes, there would still be businesses and products—but only so much as is necessary for real life. What I’m suggesting is that we move into a new paradigm. The following is the best encapsulation of the old to the new paradigm that I am suggesting. It comes from Barbara Brandts’ book, Whole Life Economics. ...the central assumption of the modern economic paradigm is the belief that money represents value. According to this belief, the more money one has, the more things of value one can buy, leading to greater well-being. That's why the modern economic paradigm defines economics in terms of such issues as the success of businesses in producing and selling goods and services in order to make money and the ways in which individuals make money. In the modern economic paradigm, the economy is defined by the movement and behavior of money and any activity that increase the amount of money by an individual, business or nation is considered economically successful. .....the central assumption of the post-modern economic paradigm is not on money, business, interest rates, productivity or other conventional economic concepts. Instead, [whole life economics] the post-modern economic paradigm starts from such values as our physical well-being, mental and emotional health, our social relationships, our ability to meet our needs and the needs of those we care about, our connection to the natural environment and our need for spiritual meaning. By contrast, the new paradigm recognizes that nature is not merely a collection of passive physical materials mutely waiting to be dug up or chopped down, but is a dynamic living system of plants, animals, soils, waters, weather and numerous other processes that constitute the ultimate source of all our economic activities and it assumes that an economic system that honors the Earth is also one that enhances human quality of life. The post-modern economic paradigm perceives human beings and the Earth, not as competitors but as participants in a mutually sustaining relationship. +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ We already have an example of the new economic paradigm—the Grameen bank and its microlending system. Notice that these borrowers are pulling themselves out of poverty, improving their families, communities, relationships—but they are not obsessed about making more and more money. Money serves their values and the important values are those noted above: physical, mental, emotional well-being, relationships, meeting needs (vs. insatiable desires) and connection to the natural environment/need for spiritual meaning. While I do congratulate WFM—if we’re going to stay stuck in capitalism, at least being conscious is a better option than what we have now, but it’s never going to be enough. It is an old, burdened system. For instance, the discussion around your stock price—your comment that stockholders ‘own’ the company is just unsustainable. With the exception of the IPO, any stock purchased after that does nothing for WFM—it is not an investment in your company in the least. It is actually a completely disconnected group of people ‘legally gambling’ on a supposed ‘value’. But as is obvious, that value can be hyper-manipulated by people who couldn’t care less about WFM at all. Yet we give these people ‘ownership’ of the company and like a puppet on the string, WFM and actually all companies publicly traded dance to the tune of ‘share price’ by these ‘owners’. The present system enables this small group of investors (speculators really) to have more power over your company than the people who actually work in it to make it the great company it is! No matter how conscious you may be John, this system allows very unconscious people to determine policies for their short term gain. My business friends in publicly traded companies bespeak constantly of the frustration of ‘dancing to the tune’ of the quarterly stock report. It forces them in to short term planning vs. long term. It is a tough world to work in and sadly so many of those who do work for you could lose their jobs because stock/speculators would force you into decisions that serve stockholders first, customers and employees second. For example, when ATT merged with Cingular, 7000 working people who had built that company lost their jobs. This brought a rise in the stock price for stock owners—but harmed 7000 individuals and families who had put their time, energy and effort into those companies. We call this normal in a capitalistic system—the current modern economic paradigm. This would be considered insane in the post modern economic paradigm. Which ultimately leads to the elephant in the living room of a consumer economy—conscious or otherwise. The “unavoidable dilemma” when we consumers have had bought enough—but a business needs to keep selling stuff, making money and supporting the stock price. Then the business is forced to make more and more—even when its not necessary—and as is true with so many of the products and services that get created today. They’re not needed, but through advertising we have to create ‘insatiable desire’ (false need) and insist that we consume them. We are now consuming massive quantities of junk because businesses have to keep seeking more and more ways to get our dollars. In the food industry alone you can see the outcome of this junk production creation. While I love WFM, I worked in the natural foods industry in the early 80’s when we were all struggling to show people how to eat healthy foods like quinoa and whole wheat. Today however, I am amazed at how much useless food is in a health food store. Do we really need ‘natural cheese puffs’? Or are we producing them simply because people have been conditioned to want this and the business needs to find ways to increase sales? Conventional wisdom’s response is, “well, people don’t have to buy them—in a capitalistic system is it supply and demand”. And perhaps if we actually had a true system you might be right. But everyone in this world now knows that to ‘stop consuming’ is to stop the economy and that just can’t happen. So we just keep shopping—knowing full well we need to stop but can’t because the ‘economy’ must go on. (recall what President Bush said after 9/11—Don’t let the terrorists win—go out and shop!). Deep down inside, the current Fed Chairman, the past chairman Greenspan, Wall street traders, citizens know that we can’t buy ourselves out of the ‘unavoidable dilemma’. Resources are running out—and if the world population ‘buys’ itself into the chaos that Americans have indebted themselves, we’re goners. We’ve created an economy that serves products/services/money now let’s get conscious and create an economy that serves humans, families, communities, animals, earth, water and air. It is doable John, we need only change our minds and decide that the post-modern economy paradigm makes more sense—and then start consciously creating a world that supports it. Daniel Quinn…who wrote Ishmael which won Ted Turner’s book award for ‘best solutions for the future’…recently wrote a new book called “When they give you lined paper, write sideways”. It challenges us to look at what we call ‘normal’ and really examine its ‘normalcy’ in context to the fact that much of our old patterns are on a path of eco-cide. It is time to invent something else. Conscious capitalism is simply slanting the lined paper. It won’t get us where we need to be. Let’s have the guts to turn it completely sideways—and create the post-modern economic paradigm. When we do, shopping and working at WFM is going to be an experience so joyous because it will be part of an integrated whole—with the humans, family, community and the entire community of life—animals, air and water and earth being honored. It will be sustainable for us all and help us create a world that works for the community of life vs. money. Best regards…. Ann
03/07/2007 11:59:20 AM CST
Veronica Ciambra says ...
I am a long time member, former employee and avid supporter of food coops. I now live in California where I shop at Whole Foods (because there are no coops here and because Whole Foods is a good store in many ways). I heard your presentation at Berkeley and I can't help but feel sadness for my Vermont coops. A primary basis of the coop movement was political. Of course, we wanted good and pure foods, but we were also interested in seizing control of the food supply. You have done that to a larger degree than we in the coop movement did. And that is the problem, WE are out of it. Yes, we can control you by what we buy, but there is an added level that we were trying to do away with by starting the coop movement. As I listened to what you were saying, I though that you and we could have more power and a clearer direction if we consumers were involved on a more intimate level. How about a community board in addition to the board that is involved due to finances/corporate control. A community board would go a long way in giving consumers a strong voice and in giving your voice more power. Also, I have always believed that if people knew more of the story of what a corporation deals with they would be gentler criticizers and stronger supporters. A community board could have a dual purpose working with you/stores and with the community.
03/07/2007 3:16:43 PM CST
Julia Roll says ...
Dear John Mackey, Thank you very much for your willingness to dialogue with Michael Pollen in Berkeley. I did not have time to read all the previous comments yet, so please forgive me if this suggestion has already been mentioned. I am writing to suggest that Whole Foods open up a satellite Whole Foods store in a low income, underserved neighborhood in Oakland. The store would be considered a satellite because it would not have all the items a regular Whole Foods would have. The store would be much smaller, and a smaller selection of items would be offered. Also free classes in nutrition would be offered once a week. this satellite store could also be connected to different local groups already doing this type of education. This note is in response to the question asked at the dialogue about Whole Foods and elitism. Without consciously intending to, I beleive Whole Foods does tend to reinforce elitist standards. Your response was that a low-income person can, if they are a very careful shopper, and they are willing to cook most of their food, afford to shop at whole Foods. This is a good point, but it overlooks at least two aspects of poverty. One is access to transportation, and the other is access to information. A low income person in West Oakland who doesn't have a car and is a single parent might have a pretty long trip by public transportation to get to Whole Foods. They might also have to bring their children with them if they can't afford a sitter. They might also be tired after a long day at work. It is difficult, exhausting and time consuming for them just to get to a health food store, so they just purchase junk food because that's what's sold locally. Second, many low income people may not have the education about nutrition and smart shopping to be able to successfully navigate a Whole Foods and get out without denting their wallets too badly. That is why the satellite Whole Foods would offer free classes in nutrition and be connected to local groups doing similar work. Creating a Whole Foods satellite store in an area of Oakland that does not have health food stores addresses the issues of access and education. Many low-income people might start eating differently because they can actually get to the store conveniently. Secondly, providing free weekly classes on nutrition and smart shopping gives people the skills they need to be able to afford to start buying differently, without breaking their budget. The new satellite could also provide products that serve different ethnicities in the area that it's located in. Finally, while low-income people may not have as much money as other people, they do have money. I think it would be possible to make a profit with these Whole Foods satellite stores, though perhaps a more modest profit than a regular Whole Foods. I hope that you seriously consider this proposal. The Whole Foods satellite idea is an active way that Whole Foods can start breaking down the walls that prevent low-income people from accessing healthy food. Thank you for your attention to this note, and I look forward to hearing your response, Sincerely, Julia Roll
03/08/2007 12:43:06 PM CST

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