199 Comments

Comments

Michael Barcellos says ...
Mr. Mackey, I have read this blog over and over again only to find something new to change my way of thinking in the business world. Because of this I have hunted down many definitions and thought I'd share one I found in the Christian Science Monitor. This is from a book by Patricia Auburdene, Megatrends 2010,in which she states, "many are beginning to practice a form of "conscious capitalism," which involves integrity and higher standards, and in which companies are responsible not just to shareholders, but also to employees, consumers, suppliers, and communities. Some call it "stakeholder capitalism."" I pass this along to you primarily because it is thru you and this blog that i feel a new awakening in how I work in today's business. Even though i do work at a Whole Foods, the opportunity to get a clearer overall picture of what we are trying to accomplish is always a help to me. With so much to read i feel more enlightened and more encourage that thru change we can have a better planet. The one thing that I am finding in all I am reading is the word "HUMANITY". Just wanted to thank you and I look forward to reading YOUR book when published. Sincerely Yours, Michael Barcellos PFDS Hingham Massachusetts
03/25/2007 12:57:25 PM CDT
Ann G. Kramer says ...
Dear John…. This has been fun and you’re right…we will have to agree to disagree and move on! I did however have to correct your comment about the 14th Amendment. The 14th Amendment has been used by corporations to give corporations the rights of citizens. (A great book that details the history of this is Thom Hartmann’s “Unequal Protection”.) This has enabled the limited liability of corporations. Technically you’re correct—I would agree with you that the 14th Amendment does not give corporations the rights of citizens—however the interpretation by the Supreme Court since the late 1880’s has set this ‘flaw’ in motion so that today, corporations have argued successfully over and over again that they have the rights of citizens—and this enables the ‘limited liability’ factor. You and I agreed earlier that this ability for corporations to ‘externalize costs’ (such as pollution, watershed destruction, etc.) is a flaw—and should be corrected. This will not be corrected as long as the 14th Amendments’ manipulation by corporations remains the law of the land! But John…you know, if this did happen—I would actually be able to agree with you so much more that ‘conscious capitalism’ is the next step on the path….. All in all I don’t think we’re that far apart….so I will end this process with a quote by Robert F. Kennedy in March of 1968. His points are essentially what I’m trying to say—that we expand the view of capitalism beyond that of primarily profit and cash flow and redefine our economy on whole life….Businesses will still be happening….and I believe they’ll more vibrant than ever possible under the current system. “Our gross national product now is over $800 billion dollars a year, but that gross national product, if we judge the United State of America by that, counts air pollution, and cigarette advertising and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them. It counts the destruction of the redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic squall. It counts napalm, and it counts nuclear warheads, and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities. It counts Whitman’s rifles and Speck’s knives and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children. There are also important things that only measuring the flow of cash misses. Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom, nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country. It measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.” (excerpted from Unequal Protection by Thom Hartmann, page 39) Be well John and continued success for Whole Foods Markets!
03/25/2007 1:10:54 PM CDT
Veronica Ciambra says ...
I made a comment on March 7 to which you responded on March 13. In your response of March 13 you asked me a few questions to which I respond below. I have not read all the postings on this site, so may say something that has already been beaten to death. First some feedback, I appreciate the changes I have noticed in the store. I shop in Palo Alto, but visit other locations from time to time. You are obviously trying to do things that you said you were going to do. For that, particularly the emphasis on locally produced items and those items being labeled as such, I want to thank you. Also, most of your employees I have spoken with say very good things about their experience as employees and about the food they are involved in selling. They obviously feel good about what they are able to tell me when I ask questions. Though, at times, I still have to go to the computer at home and do more research to get all my questions answered. I know that food coops are alive and well, just not near where I live in California. I know of 18 food coops in CA and I know there is a worker owned market in SF. I just moved here in November and shopped at coops on the East coast up until that time. I do shop at the Farmer’s Markets out here but that doesn’t solve all the problems either. This is also a good coop resource http://www.coopdirectory.org/. I am really happy that you can see ways of working with coops. I can think of a few more than the ones you state. Coops have changed a lot over the years. The Park Slope Coop in New York is the only one that I know of that allows only members to shop. There was a time when this was more the rule rather than the exception. Today the coops I have shopped at (and I have visited coops all over the US) allow anybody to shop, discounts for members are a lot less than they used to be, membership fees are a lot more and stores are more similar to non-coops natural food stores than they used to be, just not in their business form. Coops were a way to bring together people with the same ideals about food and food politics. Times have changed and I feel the way to do that needs a new beginning, maybe many new beginnings. But, you asked me “How would the "community board" be selected? Who gets to vote? Who gets to decide?” I think you could get volunteers for a community board to submit a short statement stating their reasons for wanting to be on the community board and their background that makes them appropriate for the position. Management would invite people they thought most suited to the position. You’d need people willing to do some work, and you’d want people willing to talk to others in the community. You’d want to keep the number small. I think the way you could work it to make it uncomplicated would be for management, with suggestions from the community board, who would be in touch with others in their community, to decide the issues the community board would work on. Maybe one issue at a time depending on the issue. These would be things that would be important to shoppers and less important maybe to investors. But, in the long term, of importance to the future finances of the company and therefore important to the investors. The community board would simply be advisory. I think it would be best to brainstorm and figure out all the “rules” before doing anything and maybe do some market research to test out the idea. Hope we exchange ideas more about this.
03/25/2007 11:52:47 PM CDT
Lord Westfall says ...
Wow, this blog cleared up a lot of concerns I have about becoming a Wholefoods investor. To me it has always been obvious that focusing on growing the whole metaphorical pie makes more sense than creating a situation where all groups waste valuable resources trying to ensure they get a larger slice percentage wise relative to the other groups. Perhaps a company that was focused only on the profits of its shareholders would act in an almost identical way to Wholefoods, if management were wise enough. That is to say that a company whose sole goal is maximizing profit would probably be more effective at achieving that goal if, as a means to the end of that goal, they focused considerable attention to the needs of their customers, workforce, community, etc. After all, shareholder profits would be reduced to nothing if not for the support of the other stakeholders. I was opposed to Mackey's management views, but my opposition was based on ignorance--incomplete information. When I researched Whole foods as a potential investment, I discovered that his approach is far more effective at maximizing shareholder profits than the more conventional strategies most companies employ. I wish all of the businesses I invest in were managed with the same philosphy. Regards, Lord Westfall
03/28/2007 3:27:16 PM CDT
John Mackey says ...
To Ann Kramer, I'm not sure that you understand what corporate "limited liability" means. It doesn't mean that the corporation has no liability for its actions. That certainly is not the case and can easily be verified by thinking about the explosion of litigation and lawsuits that every public corporation has to struggle with every single day of its existence. No, limited liability refers to the fact that the investors in the corporation are not individually liable for the actions of the corporation. The corporation remains liable, but not the investors. If you owned a share of Enron stock, limited liability means that your risk is "limited" to the total value of your investment and nothing more. You couldn't be sued or held responsibile for the actions that the corporation might do. However, the corporation doesn't escape responsibility or liability for its actions, which is exactly why Enron is now bankrupt and some of its executives are now in jail. Ann, I encourage you to read my blog entry on the Upward Flow of Human Development. Your criticism of modern American society is very much in the spirit of the Green Meme consciousness criticizing the dominant paradigm of the Orange Meme. Think about what I have to say about the Memes beyond Green--Yellow and Turquoise--and see if either of those Memes resonate with you. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me. Take care.
03/28/2007 5:17:10 PM CDT
John Mackey says ...
To Veronica Ciambra, Thanks for your suggestions. They are good ones. Take care.
03/28/2007 5:20:25 PM CDT
Letha Hadady says ...
Dear John, You said it all when you wrote: "Long-term profits are the result of having a deeper business purpose, great products, customer satisfaction, employee happiness, excellent suppliers, community and environmental responsibility—these are the keys to maximizing long-term profits." Bravo for your and Whole Foods' sense of environmental responsibility. I wrote about that on my blog www.asianhealthsecrets.com in my recent article "Whole Foods Market & Riverkeepers" best wishes for your books. Letha
03/31/2007 10:41:27 PM CDT
Brendan says ...
Thanks John for sharing your valuable vision and business information with us all. We'd love to see Whole Foods in Australia. I miss the great experience and food. Brendan O'Keefe
04/02/2007 5:33:33 AM CDT
Chris Belchamber says ...
Comments on Conscious Capitalism I would first like to congratulate you on your leadership of Whole Foods. It is a great accomplishment to develop such a successful business, but and even greater achievement to do this with your unique form of capitalism. I also find it exciting that this could form the basis for a new model for other companies to copy, or at least use as a guide to their own development. I have a number of points that I thought might be worth considering. They are ordered, more or less, as they emerged as I read through the article. 1. I think you state too emphatically that economic theory started during the Industrial Revolution. Murray Rothbard wrote a 500 page book called “Economic Thought Before Adam Smith”, citing many instances of economic thought going back thousands of years. I would agree that perhaps most economic thinking has occurred in the last 250 or so years. 2. There may be many reasons, other than the ones you site, as to why capitalism has got a bad name. Firstly, many managers simply do not walk their own talk, or fail to behave in an ethical manner. This most likely will, unfortunately, always be the case. It is only natural that this breeds cynicism or at least skepticism about corporate culture. The question is not whether skepticism should exist but how companies can show that they are more trustworthy and reliable. Here I applaud your transparency and openness. Trust and credibility can only be earned day by day and by consistent demonstration over time. 3. I believe your arguments in favor of capitalism are well made through your “voluntary exchange for mutual benefit is the ethical foundation of business (and capitalism).” However, I believe you could also further reinforce this with a simple practical example. How else would you set the price for tomatoes? The market mechanism is surely the only one that works, and historically all attempts at price fixing have failed before very long . No self-appointed or elected groups dictating prices on a continuous basis have ever survived the test of time? The burden of proof here clearly rests on the critics of capitalism. 4. Another reason for the initial analysis of corporations being based on profits is that profits are the most obvious and externally observable evidence available for objective analysis. So it is no wonder that this became the initial preoccupation. Philosophical considerations and the complex interactions that are also highly important are much more difficult to quantify and analyze. Furthermore, materialism and capitalistic progress were perhaps far more necessary in the initial phases of the industrial revolution and indeed, to a great extent, have continued to be. However, we may now be reaching a different phase, where this perspective has now become more one dimensional, and perhaps insufficient. Perhaps this is a transition to a more multi-dimensional model that we are only more recently beginning to collectively need. 5. I very much enjoyed your discussions on purposes and have little to add. This leads to the paradox of profits and the philosophy of happiness and I share your perspective. I very much liked your “humanity first” approach. This shows up in a healthy respect for others regardless of outcome. Period. If you are genuinely interested in the best outcome for others, this is a different behavior than a conditional self-interest motivation, and people soon recognize the difference. Again I applaud this philosophy but wonder how widespread this philosophy can be as it seems to require significant maturity and self-development. 6. I tend to agree with you that we probably do need a new business paradigm, and I can appreciate why your model looks much more attractive. The question that I have is that although I very much like your approach, it is also seems much more complicated to manage. Although you have gone into a great many details of how your run Whole Foods, I am still left wondering that there is a great deal more to this that could be explained through more insight of the history and development of Whole Foods. The challenge it seems to me is twofold. It seems to me that it requires a greater level of complexity in managing such a company and self-development on the part of the people involved in managing it. 7. I believe the discussion on Non-profit organizations is an important one. This boils down, it seems to me, to whether a sustainable for profit company derives its validation through voluntary demand for its products, and whether non-profit companies really do the “good” they intend. Clearly, there are no simple answers here, but I have a great deal of sympathy for your idea that we should not become too obsessed with the differences but instead find the common ground in a more holistic model. Indeed many of these issues seem to dissolve if we can begin to transcend “first tier” dogma, and move towards “second tier” perspectives and inclusiveness, to use the language of spiral dynamics. In summary, I find your ideas and achievements wonderfully inspiring and very much hope that you will be able to reach the widest possible audience. These are issues, subjects, and possible solutions whose time has come. I believe, however, that the challenge is to help people with the complexity of your model as well as to gain the maturity and self-development it requires. I had believed that the purpose and meaning of “Flow” was to take on this task, at least in part. I had hoped that the “Flow Papers” would spell out these issues and make them accessible to a much wider audience and easier to implement in practice. I have read a great deal of what is on the “Flow” website and have signed up to comment on the Flow papers. So far I believe your “curriculum for good” section is excellent, and certainly inspirational. However, this is just one aspect and I was hoping that the “Flow papers” would fill in the remaining gaps. I am still hopeful that the Flow Papers will, in the end, begin to demonstrate the clarity and purpose of the ideas you have discussed in “Conscious Capitalism”. I accept that this may be the hardest part of getting your ideas across, but given the importance of this project I very much hope that this area will receive the attention that it deserves. The primary questions that remain for me are: Are the “Flow Papers” supposed to build on your ideas of “Conscious Capitalism”? If not what is their purpose? What is the current status of the Flow Papers? Many thanks for your vision and leadership. Your achievements and writing have been an inspiration to me and many others. Chris Belchamber.
04/08/2007 11:39:17 AM CDT
Wyatt says ...
Concepts of Sustainability: Much of this discussion has to do with THREE primary concepts: 1.The concept of Sustainability, 2. The concept of Responsibility, 3. The concept of Efficiency. All three of these concept or inner-dependant on one and other! ONE of the aspects of large, corporate culture is that it offers and economy of scale, which translates into efficiency. Efficiency is the backbone of sustainability. Responsibility (however you describe it) is a human intension. Mix the three together in business, and you are the road to creating a respectable, sustainable business model. Mackey is on this road. Macro-Markets vs. Micro-Gardens I for one cannot see how a regional, micro-business model for “health food” stores, long-distance travel or consumer electronics (by example) could ever be considered sustainable. The costs of producing goods and services on a micro-scale, to service a macro-market is entirely unsustainable. Even if a majority of our global population wanted to live responsibly (less stuff/less waste), this objective would need to be addressed by a highly efficient, macro-business and macro social/political action-model. Capitalism and Intention: Capitalism, like any other social/cultural/political engine can indeed be corrupted. Capitalism is not what is flawed though. People’s intentions in capitalist markets are what create problems. Without an efficient, capitalist market, much of what even the hippest hippies would like to have become a reality would not ever be possible. There are simply too many people, in too many locations, with too diverse a set of needs. Needs: Art/Recreation, Food/Water/Medicine, Freedom to explore our universe- These are what all humans need to survive, both physically and intellectually/emotionally! Technology, capitalism, socialist ethics, all mixed together with hard work and sustainable intentions may be the only way to address these basic human needs, on a global scale. The US cannot be used as a baseline comparison either. China and other poverty-stricken, growing populations are the demand-factor markets and cultures that need to drive this social, political and economic objective of sustainability. Thoughts?
04/26/2007 11:23:29 AM CDT
Eric Novikoff says ...
John, I read your postings on Conscious Capitalism and have found myself very energized and uplifted both by what you had to say as well as the courage you have to say it in public and associate it with your company (not that it isn't apparent from how it's run, of course.) The question I have for you revolves around finding investors for a company committed to Conscious Capitalism, or even going beyond it in ways that place it further from the "usual" and therefore easily understood paradigm of operating a company. In the case of Whole Foods, it appears that the capitalization came first, then the public declaration of your business philosophy. However, in my case, I'm starting a company whose founding principles are based on heart-centered practice: essentially a commitment to *equality* (or equal power) in all relationships we engage in (equality does not imply equivalence, however.) Like you, I haven't found that this practice in any way repudiates having a profitable business, but it does bring a sense of joy, purpose, and rightness to my life and my relationships with customers, vendors and stakeholders, as well as building a collaborative community among them. In fact the commitment, once understood, actually helps to bring us customers and connect us with the community in amazing ways. However, investors are another story. Essentially, people who invest in the initial phase of a company (and hence get a large share of ownership) are accustomed to and feel entitled to a large share of control. The rub, of course is that control, sometimes called power-over, is not equality. Investors with this expectation are a poor match for a heart-centered company and we choose not to engage with them since at best I would expect disappointment or conflict as a result. Instead, what appears to flow from our commitment to heart-centered business is the requirement to have investors who collaborate with us as equals, bringing their experience and expertise to the company and enhancing its value as a result. One could think of them as board members or executive council members but ultimately they are truly partners because they have embraced the company's heart-centered intent. They fully share in the risk, choices, and rewards that the company will create. However, I don't know how to find and communicate with these types of investors. Like many other aspects of the company I'm founding, I'm expecting I have to re-invent how to do things differently than I learned to in my years of experience working in other companies. As you pointed out, committing to Conscious Capitalism does not eliminate the required due diligence in creating a well-designed business plan and addressing other fundamental requirements of a successful business, but it does add another dimension. That's OK with me, since this is *supposed* to be an adventure, but I could certainly use ideas on how to find this kind of investor. It seems a necessary prerequisite for expanding the adoption of Conscious Capitalism. If you have any comments, I'd love to hear them. Eric Novikoff
04/27/2007 7:39:38 PM CDT
Jacob says ...
Hi John, > The world has become much more complex since > those simple (machine) metaphors were first > developed. I agree that deeply ingrained metaphors can continue to influence us long after they've outlived their usefulness. This suggests the limitations of adpoting any metaphorical stance no matter how compelling it seems. That being said, if we agree that you can change how people think (and act) by changing the metaphors they live by, what new metaphor can you offer us in place of business-as-machine? Perhaps your essay could be improved by articulating a replacement for the tired economic models. You mentioned we could look to complex systems theory for a more appropriate metaphor. Do you have anything specific in mind? Thank you for this inspiring essay. I have two young sons. Your work makes me hopeful for their future. ~ Jacob Liberman Austin, TX
05/01/2007 4:00:45 PM CDT
Chris Belchamber says ...
John (and Eric Novikoff) I would like to respond in large part to Eric's comment, but believe that there are wider issues here about the development of Conscious Capitalism. Like Eric I am moved by the ideas presented by conscious capitalism, and want to integrate it into my own activities and business. I have simply reached the point where purpose, principles, and heart are the most important part of how I want to live and interact with others. Conscious capitalism provides an initial blueprint for moving in this direction. Nevertheless, I believe that there is still only a small minority of people that have reached this point, or are open to these ideas. It would be a great service to people like us to know how we can contact other like-minded individuals who would like to take conscious capitalism to the next stage, or help with each others development. I would be grateful if you could give this some thought. Many thanks for your consideration. Chris Belchamber.
05/05/2007 8:54:22 AM CDT
Paul Raymond says ...
I am glad that you warned readers that it will take some time to read the whole "Conscious Capitalism" article. I started to read it for about 15 minutes but have to run out the door and have not finished it. Nor have I read the blog--and do not know how to blog yet. Look forward to reading it in its entirety. Have just finished working as a sales rep for national accounts for 23 years and do not want to work for a big corporation. I do not mind working with a corporation though--and like people some are good and some are bad. Simple as that. Read your core values. Agree with them. Will check back here and see if any response and to finish the article. Later, Paul
05/08/2007 8:26:46 AM CDT
Ryan Orrock says ...
The comments previously are exactly on target. We have done some of the worst damage that could be imagined in the world by allowing corporations to have *at least* as many rights as natural persons without being able to hold them responsible (prison) for their actions. Thus, persons can do things "through a corporation" that would be illegal or morally reprehensible, yet not be held responsible for those actions (larger than the bankrupcy of the corporation involved). There is no need for corporations, if the need to exist at all, to shield individuals from immoral or illegal behavior
05/08/2007 12:45:34 PM CDT
Carlos Müffelmann says ...
Dear JOHN: I not only agree and are very impresed by reading that there in the world people interested in topics like this ( consiusness ) specialy when we are talking to a very successful enterpriser like you are. As you where at the begining of your disertation asking, I'm here trying to give a maybe more ununderstandable theory, but I'm thinking on this also for many years and I guess it is a good time to share! On my point of view the basic problem is indeed "money" when acaparadores startet to exist then no "sharing" but instand "profiting" begun to exist. I can write long about this, but maybe is not the moment for doing it but still want to say that changing our consiusness for a sharing one instand of a competitional one and of course ending this "money", all our projekts (talking as the humankind) could bloom nice, easy, quikly and joyfuly!
05/16/2007 10:49:05 AM CDT
Zoe says ...
Dear John, First off - thanks for your inspiring vision and democratic (small D) openness. It's amusing that many of your critics seem much more self-righteous than you are, despite probably having personally done far less to help the world. I'd like to draw attention to an issue I see missing from this debate - global warming. The IPCC report is out (http://www.ipcc.ch/) and there is a rock-solid scientific consensus that climate change is happening, it's caused by human behaviour, and the whole world needs to change its behaviour very soon or face unpredictable disruption to agriculture, sea levels, the spread of disease, and many other effects we just aren't smart enough to predict. (For example, climate change probably led to droughts in Africa, leading to fights over farmland greatly contributing to the tragic conflict in Darfur. How many more such wars will we see as the world heats up?) In economic terms, climate change is the biggest negative externality ever. People seem to finally be waking up to the scale of this issue, but I still notice a lot of denial in the public debate about what should be done. Some studies suggest that to avoid the worst effects of global warming, rich countries need to reduce their emissions by more than 80% by 2050. I believe it can be done, and without as much pain as people claim, but it's still a gigantic challenge that needs to be risen to. Maybe there will be a miraculous scientific innovation that will provide free clean energy in the next 30 years without the need to change our economy, but can we really afford to gamble on that chance? This leads to some interesting questions when one is talking about the nature of capitalism. What do you see as the role of government in this situation? With an issue requiring such widespread global action, a "conscious" response from just one company regarding their carbon footprint isn't enough. Yet so far, governments seem so slow and fearful that we can't depend on them. It's ironic that in the U.S., far more is being done to combat climate change on a local level than on the federal level, even though it's a problem where the costs are local and the benefits are global. How can companies show more leadership in looking at their energy footprint and their connection to the global energy status quo in a holistic way? What is the appropriate role for "conscious capitalists", government, and individual people in a massive issue like this? To bring the debate closer to home, what is Whole Food's current carbon footprint? Where do stores source their electricity and do they buy any offsets? I don't pretend to be smart enough to know all the answers to these questions. I just know that I'm 26, and absent some coordinated global effort, I'm going to be seeing some bad stuff in my lifetime - and my children certainly will. Thanks again for your effort and inspiration. Zoe
05/16/2007 9:54:52 PM CDT
Jymmi Sparkz says ...
I love everything you are doing and saying and I've Loved Michael Pollan for at least 8 years since I read The Botany of Desire. You are true leaders in a world lead by capitalist imbesils. I've applied to the Seattle/Rosevelt Square store in hopes of spendinding the next 15 years in retail as a positive impact participant. I applaude you and your stance. You are awesome!With much love and respect, Jymmi Seattle, WA
05/23/2007 4:29:24 PM CDT
Kelly says ...
I'm having a hard time feeling "good" about Whole Foods in spite of all this "Conscious Captialism" diatribe. I was just in the flagship store this morning and I'm not impressed any longer. The sheer volume of PLASTIC in every aisle of the store is horrific. I had to laugh as I passed a sign on a display saying "Are you walking in a sea of toxins?" I certainly was this morning with all those plastics surrounding me. And what percentage of the ingredients in all those Whole Foods pre-packaged prepared foods is actually organic? How many LOCAL organic farms are you supporting in the Austin area? It's not okay to continue shipping product 1,000 or 2,000 miles. This is not helping us solve our energy or pollution problems. I can only find 3 or 4 local organic famrs - and one of the oldest is desperately trying to "grow" more because they cannot fill the demand. Supporting local farming through monetary measures and purchasing is not dictating. And evne if it were, we may need to dictate a bit to get people to realize the true importance of supporting local agriculture. Otherwise we will continue to see the mess of pollution we are dealing with right now. Most great civilizations declined due to food shortages and the political strife caused by fighting over resources. It's not okay to grow a company and kow-tow to the "usual" status quo of plastics, prepackaged foods and junk - even if it IS eco junk. I was a shopper at the original store - for years. Selling out to the money machine is not conscious capitalism no matter how you try to sell it. Your recent choice to provide a fund of $10 million a year in low interest loans to support local farmers around the nation seems like a start. But it's a small start for a company that has done so well for so long. I hope you'll do more. A lot more.
05/25/2007 10:18:25 AM CDT
Lord Westfall says ...
"Long-term profits are maximized by not making them the primary goal." John, I completely see what you're saying about how the pursuit of profits/happiness directly, results in less of the desired profits/hapiness than an indirect approach that pursues other things such as the well-being of others as its own end (rather than as a means to one's own hapiness/profits). I have lived my life directly pursuing happiness in a direct & admitedly selfish manner, and while I am quite happy, I often feel as though others, who appear to have not acted out of rational selfishness to maximize their own happiness are indeed more happy. (they're able to maintain a relationship for more than a few months for example). It appears as though most companies, though their sole pursuit of their own self-interest are in many ways similar to a sociopath. However, I would argue that profits not being maximized by making them the primary goal is more an issue of ineffective planning. If a company could earn more profits by focusing on higher team mebemer pay, charitiable contributions, more customer care, etc, then it should do these things maximum profits. That is, if your thesis is correct that a conciously capitalistic company is more profitlable, the profit-maximizing company should immitate the alturustic company insofar as it maximizes profits...but not in the ways that do not maximize profits. If it is more effective to pursue profits indirectly, then that is what management should do, but sharehodler profits should remain the only goal...after all, it is the company belongs to the shareholders. For example, a company might do several of the things WFM does, but decide not to donate 5% of profits to chairty (which I, as a stockholder am opposed to WFM doing). This company would be more efficent & more likely to survive than WFMI, because they are able to reinvested that 5% and grow faster...or discount their products more, etc. This would give that company an advantage of WFM, which handicaps itself by effectively throwing away 5% of its profits. Of course, overall I am very pleased with the way WFM is managed. Lord Westfall
05/25/2007 8:26:52 PM CDT
Ian says ...
In response to Kelly's comment of May 25: If you're shopping at a Wholefoods market in San Francisco in the near future, you will be pleasantly surprised - the City of San Francisco has banned the use of plastic bags by all big retail stores. Yet another example of government stepping in to solve a problem which our capitalist friends find too difficult to deal with. (Indeed, SF has also banned bottled water in some restaurants, also Styrofoam takeout containers, and is now starting a program to convert waste vegetable oil from restaurants into biodiesel for the city's buses. See http://www.greenoptions.com/blog/2007/04/30/san_francisco_to_turn_restaurant_oil_into_biodiesel) All of which leads me to wonder, could it be that the Mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsom, despite his party animal reputation, is actually operating at the level of the yellow vMEME, or even - gasp - THE TURQUOISE vMEME?!
05/28/2007 6:30:17 PM CDT
Jeff Mowatt says ...
Dear John, I'd like first to pick up on an earlier comment, suggesting an inconsistency between capitalism and the ideals of social justice. From our own efforts in the former Soviet Union, it's more than once we've heard the comment that this kind of conscious capitalism is the communism they should have had. Like yourself, we started before my involvement, with the question - What is the real purpose of business. I think we're very much aligned, though our efforts have been more focused on taking such a paradigm overseas, where it might target extreme poverty. Hence our begginings in Russia. For the past few years we've been directing our resources toward leveraging development aid to seed the social form of capitalism where it has already proven effective, in a full cost recovery initiative managed by USAID leaving a flourishing microcredit bank as a legacy. I read much which appears congruent - your own efforts, Muhammed Yunus' advocacy for social business enterprise and Jed Emerson's blended value approach. You'll probably also know that something along the same lines exists in the Community Interest Company that we here in the UK have incorporated in law. Like yourself, I'm a former coop advocate, seeing the benefits and limitations of mutual enterprise and you may be interested to know that the UK cooperative movement have also recently introduced a CIC form. So maybe that's progress in acknowledging the need for a new paradigm, but regrettably in practice it's not borne out by support. My strong impression is of so many singing from the same hymn-sheet, yet refusing to communicate with each other, particularly from an advocating government whose response varies from dismissal to plain hostility. We find it very difficult to communicate the global case, when so much interest is focused on local activity. There's a perception I detect, that more than being inconsistent with social justice, it's fraudulent even ungodly to suggest an alternative to charitable endeavour. We should communicate more, I believe. Jeff Mowatt People-Centred Economic Development UK
06/01/2007 5:04:56 AM CDT
Matt Holbert says ...
Dear John- One of the problems with the current paradigm is that it is difficult to be flexible. For example, the supermarket industry is ineffective in that the system requires large parking lots, lots of packaging, and lots of people stocking shelves and operating scanners. There is a better model of providing quality food. The system would operate similar to a spa with kitchen gardens and fresh food. Team members -- I prefer the term partners -- would be involved in the hands-on production of food and the gourmet preparation of the the same. I would like to see someone like Whole Foods come out and say that we need to re-think the entire system. Instead, we are able to only nibble at the edges of the comprehensive changes that are required. If Whole Foods said tomorrow that they were going to get into the spa business, stock prices would probably plummet. Notwithstanding the initial shock, it is the right thing to do. Best regards, Matt Holbert
06/05/2007 3:46:14 PM CDT
Lord Westfall says ...
Well John, we got looted by the community-via the FTC/goverment (which the community elects). It would be nice if shareholders, employees, customers, suppliers, and the community worked together for the greatest utility of everyone involved as productivity would certainly increase. But the problem with this unrealisticly idealistic philosphy is that in reality each individual collective group acts selfishly (or will begin to do so). If shareholders are acting in the interest of all stakeholders (via management), and the other groups are acting in their self-interest, the shareholders lose. They are wasting resources on the well-being of the other groups, but the other groups are selishly using their resources on themselves...This is problamatic. I am disapointed that you're opposed to Rand's ethical philosphy, as I think this is the best approach for a person or corperation. And as a shareholder I would hope that you, as CEO, would adopt this strategy. I would also like to point out that someone could be selfish in caring for something else as a means to ones ownself. For example, I used to not tip, now I do, but I am never tip out of concern for someone else's well-being, I merely do so selfishly as I realize it serves my long-term best interest. Likewise, a company can be rationally selfish and care about it's customers/employees as a means to greater profits. In fact, it would be irrational not to do so, because without happy customers & employees, long-term profits will suffer. Are we as shareholders obligated to expend resources for the well-being of other groups beyond what would be in our self-interest? If so, are the other groups morally obligated to do the same for us? Please note: My commentary here is entirely philosophical, I am not claiming WFM devotes more resources to non-shareholder groups than would be rationaly selfish to do, with the exception of the community as we are clearly not getting a good return on our alturistic contributions. Despite the efforts of the community to loot us, you and your team are doing a good job--in fact a better job than most, at maximizing long term shareholder value...despite the anchor of your alturism-infested approach. Lord Westfall p.s. When can I expect to see a Wholefoods in Arkansas?
06/06/2007 2:56:36 PM CDT
cantubury says ...
Americans want a "McDonalds" type convenience and standardization in a healthy context. I wonder if a drive up order by computer or phone text mail would work. the commentators seem to think whole foods is a fad that will not last. I love the store but there is a lot of merchandise that is hard to navigate. We have gone from the 50's black and white to billions of non-nature colors and I wonder if we have so many choices that we are going to yearn for a less bloated mini mart inside the mega foods store. "Ethops(military style ethical applications of business models to fair play" is the byword for this decade as is the decade of the brain. I wonder if the new "green" will succeed with the increase in prices of our food stocks.
06/06/2007 9:11:05 PM CDT

Pages