Creating the High Trust Organization

By John Mackey, March 9, 2010  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by John Mackey

American society appears to be undergoing a crisis in trust. Most of the major organizations that we depend upon, including governments of all types, corporations, our health care system, our financial institutions, and our schools all seem to be failing us. Indeed, I do not believe it is an exaggeration to claim that our society is actually undergoing a disintegration process whereby the fundamental premises and values supporting our institutions are all being called into question. While such disintegration is very painful to experience, it is also a tremendous opportunity for genuine transformation. My essay outlines some of the most important values and strategies necessary for the creation of, and the transformation to, high trust organizations.


Higher Purpose

Virtually all of our societal organizations seem to have either forgotten or have never really known why they exist and what their higher purposes are. Instead, they have often elevated narrow individual and institutional self-interest into the only purposes that they recognize as valid. Our governments all too frequently serve the interests of the politicians, the public service unions, and various other special interests rather than their citizens. Our schools too often serve their educational bureaucracy and teachers’ unions instead of their students and their parents. Our health care system too often seeks to maximize the profits of pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, doctors, and insurance companies rather than the health and wellness of patients. Many of our corporations primarily exist to maximize the compensation of their executives and, secondarily, shareholder value rather than value creation for customers, employees, and other major stakeholders.


The single most important requirement for the creation of higher levels of trust for any organization is to discover or rediscover the higher purpose of the organization. Why does the organization exist? What is it trying to accomplish? What core values will inspire the organization and create greater trust from all of its stakeholders?


While there are potentially as many different purposes as there are organizations, I believe that great organizations have great purposes. The highest ideals that humans aspire to should be the same ideals that our organizations also have as their highest purposes. These include such timeless ideals as:


The Good: Service to others—improving health, education, communication, and the quality of life. Southwest Airlines, Nordstroms, The Container Store,, and Joie de Vivre Hospitality are examples of this great purpose.


The True: Discovery and furthering human knowledge. Google, Intel, Genentech, and Wikipedia all express this higher aspiration.


The Beautiful: Excellence and the creation of beauty. Apple and Berkshire Hathaway share this ideal in their own unique ways.


The Heroic: Courage to do what is right to change and improve the world. Grameen Bank and the Gates Foundation express this higher purpose in their actions.


Organizations that place such higher purposes at the very core of their business model tend to inspire trust from all of their major stakeholders: customers, employees, investors, suppliers, and the larger communities in which they exist. Higher purpose and shared core values tend to unify the organization behind their fulfillment and usually act to pull the overall organization upwards to a higher degree of ethical commitment. Higher levels of trust are a natural result of this unity of purpose, shared core values, and greater ethical commitment.


Conscious Leadership—Walking the Talk

Next to the power of higher purpose, nothing is more important for creating high levels of organizational trust than the quality and commitment of the leadership at all levels of the organization. It doesn’t matter if an organization has a higher purpose if the leadership doesn’t understand it and seek to serve it. The various stakeholders of an organization, especially employees and customers, look to the leadership to “walk-the-talk”—to serve the purpose and mission of the organization and to lead by example. It is especially important that the CEO and other senior leadership embody the higher purpose of the organization.


As the co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market, I’m the most visible person in the company. One of the most important parts of my job is touring our stores and talking to our Team Members, customers, and suppliers. I know that in virtually everything that I say and do, our Team Members are always studying me, trying to determine whether they can trust me and the mission of the company. I’m always on stage. So walking the talk is very important. I try to communicate the mission and values of Whole Foods Market at every opportunity and I try to live those core values myself with complete fidelity. Fidelity to the mission and values builds trust, while any deviation from these ideals undermines trust. High trust organizations and hypocritical leadership are mutually exclusive.


Teams Everywhere

Human beings evolved in relatively small tribal bands. Many scientific studies indicate that our ability to maintain close trusting relationships with family, friends, and co-workers is constrained to about 150 people. We can, of course, know many more people than this, but it is hard to know them well enough to develop close bonds of trust based on actual experiences. At Whole Foods Market we recognize the importance of smaller tribal groupings to maximize familiarity and trust. We organize our stores and company into a variety of interlocking teams. Most teams have between six and 100 Team Members and the larger teams are divided further into a variety of sub-teams. The leaders of each team are also members of the Store Leadership Team and the Store Team Leaders are members of the Regional Leadership Team. This interlocking team structure continues all the way upwards to the Executive Team at the highest level of the company.


It has been our experience at Whole Foods Market that trust is optimized in this type of smaller team organizational structure. This is because each person is a vital and important member of their team. The success of the team is dependent upon the invaluable contributions of everyone on the team. Trust is optimized when it flows between all levels within the organization. Many leaders make the mistake of believing that the key to increasing organizational trust is to somehow get the workforce to trust the leadership more. While it is very important that employees trust leadership, it is equally important that the leadership trust the workforce. To receive trust, it is usually necessary that we give trust. Organizing into small interlocking teams helps ensure that trust will flow in all directions within the organization—upwards, downwards, within the team, and across teams.


Empowerment = Trust

While small teams are essential to optimizing the flow of organizational trust, equally important is the philosophy of empowerment. The effectiveness of teams is tremendously enhanced when they are fully empowered to do their work and to fulfill the organization’s mission and values. Empowerment must be much, much more than a mere slogan, however. It should be within the very DNA of the organization. Empowerment unleashes creativity and innovation and rapidly accelerates the evolution of the organization. Empowered organizations have tremendous competitive advantage because they have tapped into levels of energy and commitment which their competitors usually have difficulty matching.


Nothing holds back empowerment more than the leadership philosophy of command and control. Command and control (C&C) is actually the opposite of empowerment and it greatly lessens trust. C&C usually involves detailed rules and bureaucratic structures to enforce the rules. Such detailed rules almost always inhibit innovation and creativity. People get ahead in the organization not through being innovative, but by following the rules and playing it safe. C&C may produce compliance from the workforce, but it seldom unleashes much energy or passion for the purpose of the organization. Empowerment = Trust. C&C = Lack of Trust.


The Importance of Transparency & Authentic Communication

A very important measurement and condition of trust is transparency. If we want to optimize trust then we must seek to optimize transparency. When we decide to keep something hidden the motivation is almost always a lack of trust. We are afraid that the information that we wish to hide would cause more harm than good if it were widely known. While some discretion is usually necessary to protect important organizational information from migrating to one’s competitors or to outsiders who wish to harm the organization, such discretion can easily be overdone. Transparency is a very important supporting value for empowerment. Indeed, it is difficult for an organization to be empowered if it lacks transparency.


Whole Foods Market strives to optimize transparency to all of our stakeholders. Authentic communication with honesty and integrity are essential attributes of both transparency and trust. This is the exact opposite of what many organizations do, which is to try to “spin” their messaging to tell people what they believe people want to hear so that people will think well of them. This lack of honest, authentic communication and transparency usually boomerangs, however, and undermines trust and creates cynicism. One of the main reasons why Americans don’t trust many political leaders, including various Presidents who have led us, is that we discover that they routinely lie to us. They don’t tell us the truth and we come to understand that they don’t trust us and feel that they need to manipulate us. We tell the truth to people we trust.


The high-trust organization risks revealing too much information. We must be willing to take the risk that some valuable information may fall into the wrong hands because our commitment to empowerment and trust necessitates taking that risk. Creating transparency and authentic communication is an ongoing challenge that every organization faces. We must continually strive to remove the barriers that prevent them, knowing that we can’t maintain high levels of organizational trust without transparency and authentic communication.


Fairness in all Things

Nothing unravels trust more quickly in an organization than either the reality or the perception of unfairness. Another important virtue of creating a culture of transparency is that it helps ensure that unfairness is clearly seen and can therefore be corrected quickly. It is essential that the ethic of fairness apply to all key organizational processes such as hiring, promotion, compensation, discipline, and termination. Favoritism and nepotism undermine organizational trust. They cannot be tolerated. People are often prone to envy and any perceived unfairness exacerbates this tendency greatly, giving it the energy of justification.


Creating a Culture of Love and Care

Ultimately we cannot create high trust organizations without creating cultures based on love and care. The people we usually trust the most are the people that we also believe genuinely love and care for us. All too often, love and care are not qualities that we associate with organizations. We tend to look for love and friendship with our families and friends, but not from our work. Why is this? Many people believe that love and care in the organizational setting interfere with efficiency and get in the way of making the “tough but necessary” decisions that the organization requires for success. This type of thinking reflects our own lack of integration of love and care in our own lives. We have created an artificial barrier that is holding back our own personal growth and the full potential of our organizations.


Fear is the opposite of love. When fear predominates in the organization, love and care cannot flourish. The opposite is also true—love and care banish fear. How can we create more love and care in our organizations? To answer this would require another essay, perhaps even an entire book. After discovering the higher organizational purpose and securing the commitment of leadership to these ideals, nothing is more important than encouraging and nurturing love and care. Here are a few suggestions that will hopefully stimulate further thinking on this incredibly important goal of creating more love and care in our organizations:

  • The leadership must embody genuine love and care. This cannot be faked. If the leadership doesn’t express love and care in their actions, then love and care will not flourish in the organization. As Gandhi said: “We must be the change that we wish to see in the world.”
  • We must “give permission” for love and care to be expressed in the organization. Many organizations are afraid of love and care and force them to remain hidden. Love and care will flow naturally when we give them permission and encourage them.
  • We should consider the virtues of love and care in all of our leadership promotion decisions. We shouldn’t just promote the most competent, but also the most loving and caring leaders. Our organizations need both and we should promote leaders who embody both.
  • We must cultivate forgiveness rather than judgment and condemnation. Too many organizations believe that judgment of others and criticizing failures are essential for creating excellence. While striving for excellence is important for all organizations, this can be done at a higher level of consciousness—without condemnation. Forgiveness doesn’t mean condoning mistakes and failures. It simply means that we help the other person to learn from their mistakes through non-judgmental feedback and encouragement.
  • Consider ending all your organizational meetings with “appreciations.” This is something that Whole Foods Market has been doing for 25 years with wonderful results for spreading love and care. Give everyone participating in the meeting the opportunity to voluntarily appreciate and thank other members in the group for services they have contributed or qualities that are admired. This one simple cultural practice of appreciating our fellow Team Members moves us out of judgment and fear into the consciousness of love.


We have the opportunity to create more conscious and higher trust organizations in the 21st century. To do so will require three major changes. First, the organization must become conscious of its higher purposes. Without consciousness of higher purposes, organizations will not reach their fullest potential because the creative energy within the organization will not be fully expressed.


Second, we’ll need our leaders to evolve to higher levels of consciousness and trust. We will not be able to create high trust organizations without more conscious and high trust leaders. Less conscious leaders will tend to hold their organizations back.


Third, we will need to evolve the cultures of our organization in ways that create processes, strategies, and structures that encourage higher levels of trust. These will necessarily include the important ideals of teams, empowerment, transparency, authentic communication, fairness, love and care.




Dan Man says ...
This blog post seems very relevant to the controversy surrounding Whole Foods' sourcing of organic food from China. According to the information found at, it sounds like Whole Foods has a lot of work to do to fulfill their values of transparency and authentic communication. As a major customer and Whole Foods fan, I have to say my trust is shaken. I for one would like to know what Whole Foods is doing to rectify this situation.
03/09/2010 3:41:25 PM CST
Mark Sanchez says ...
Dear John, What I have read from is amazing! There are actually people out there at the top of their game who think as both my wife and myself. I am recently unemployed and extremely motivated each to day to strive and accomplish more than before. Thank you for the inspiration needed to continue to move foward during these trying times. I am actually going to apply at the Whole Foods in the Quarry in San Antonio, Texas. There are governments & company's who have forgotten how this Great Country was founded and the principles in which is stands for. Honor is something which is not taken likely in my eyes, and simply dismissed by others. Thank you John for more of the good taste of Honor wihtin. Mark Sanchez
03/10/2010 5:10:43 AM CST
wencke lossius says ...
Dear Mr. Mackey, Your thoughts on creating a high trust organization make complete sense to me. Too often corporations espouse great "love" for their employees when the reality is that many so called leaders are frightened of losing their positions in the highly structured bureaucracies that they strive to maintain. The current economy is ripe for change in this area but the lack of trust in the creative process and in front line employees by leadership stifles the possibility of positive growth. As an "enlightened" leader how do you propose that we raise the consciousness of those who could do so much to make life for us all better? The current state of affairs seem to lead to more fear not less. Your words are food for the soul and would be interested to hear your take on how to get the word out. Love your stores...often take my children on "field-trips" at Whole Foods to point out how a well run market should operate. Thank you. Wencke Lossius
03/10/2010 12:58:23 PM CST
Natalie N. says ...
Hi John, After reading this article about "Higher Purpose," I am convinced that you should do motivational speaking as well as write books. You address management related issues on a level that I have not read in any management books or heard at my university. Your points are thought provoking, yet profound. I am so happy that I stopped by your website. It was an honor to hear the words of a truly honorable man.
03/13/2010 2:43:31 AM CST
Jim Capatelli says ...
Perhaps you only want fawning and obsequious comments to be left here. So, I'll post this with the full knowledge that this may ultimately never get posted. I'm incredulous that you, Mr. Mackey, could talk about "trust" and "transparency" given your background and actions. Didn't you deliberately choose to ban unions from your store in an attempt to suppress the wages and benefits of the people working for you? Didn't you condemn health coverage for all citizens? Didn't you say there was "no right" to universal health care? Didn't you publicly deny the reality of climate change? And haven't you promised to work against any policies that would restrict the amount of greenhouse gases going into our atmosphere? How can you expect us to give you any credence when you talk about "trust", "authenticity", "fairness" and "a Culture of Love and Care"? Why would you expect us to spend our hard-earned money at your stores any longer, John Mackey? Do you think that by writing a specious and turgid column, you would make us forget your odious past? Think again, John.
03/15/2010 2:59:06 AM CDT
Joe Riccomini says ...
John, I have to say it is an honor to work for a man that valiantly upholds such high moral and ethical standards for the company the employees and the community. You set the example buy which all other organizations can be judged.My hats off to you and all the team members that help make this company so great.Keep up the good work and God Bless! ps. (Major WOW bucks!)
03/15/2010 1:19:34 PM CDT
Katie Murphy says ...
Dear Mr. Mackey, Thank you for your article, "Creating The High Trust Organization". I agree whole-heartedly with each word of your essay and truly hope our world recognizes the positive connections between us in the near future, instead of seeing and feeling all the negative connections. Just like the name of your company, "Whole Foods" - unless organizations and society realizes how intigrated culture, society and humanity really is, we will only continue to see the negative side of this connection, instead of the positive side. Sir, I am an Employment Consultant for BB&T Bank and do not hesitate when I say openly on this blog, that it would be an honor to work for your company and serve your employees and customers! Thank you for your dedication to creating a better world by promoting your beliefs within the organization you lead and employees and customers you serve. Katie Murphy
03/16/2010 7:59:12 AM CDT
K. Gadsby says ...
Dear Mr. Mackey, Thank you! Your words are provacative and courageous in a time of great upheaval. Your words are beautiful in a time that leaves one feeling perilous and desperate about our future caught in the wake of the overwhelming disintegration of integrity. Your words ought to be the inspiration of a new generation of enterprise. As I contemplate further what you have written I will respond further as this should be a dialogue that continues. Thanks again.
03/16/2010 6:51:50 PM CDT
John Mackey says ...
To all those readers who said very nice things about the essay. Thank you very much! You are very kind. I really appreciate it very much. To Jim Capatelli: Unfortunately you seem to have formed your opinions about me not from what I have actually created, or done in the world, or from the ideas that I have written about, but from what others who dislike me have written about me. I urge you to open your heart and mind and approach me without your prejudgments. Thanks. Regarding your questions: Question: "Didn’t you deliberately choose to ban unions from your store in an attempt to suppress the wages and benefits of the people working for you?" Answer: How can "I ban unions from any store?" This is illegal. Our Team Members are completely free to select union representation if that is what they wish. FYI--our wages and benefits on average are higher and better than what our unionized competitors pay. Do you believe our Team Members should have the right to not select union representaion or pay union dues if they don't want it or do you believe they should all be compelled to join unions against their will? The fact that our Team Members choose not to have unions doesn't mean they are prevented from doing so. It is no accident or coincidence that Whole Foods has been named by Fortune magazine as one of the 100 Best Companies to Work For for 13 consecutive years. Question: "Didn’t you condemn health coverage for all citizens? Didn’t you say there was “no right” to universal health care? Answer: What I said about health care is easy to find out because it is on my blog right here. Please read it with an open mind. I only want what I believe would be best for all Americans: I definitely want health care reform. I continue to believe that the 8 reforms I recommend in my essay would make health care far less expensive for virtually everyone in our society if they were implemented. I'm proud of what I wrote and I think it is a far better strategy for reform than what Congress appears ready to make the law of the land. Question: Didn’t you publicly deny the reality of climate change? And haven’t you promised to work against any policies that would restrict the amount of greenhouse gases going into our atmosphere? Answer: I don't believe I ever publicly denied the reality of climate change. In fact, I definitely do believe in climate change as our climate continues to get warmer and to get cooler all the time. Climate change is inherent to life on the earth. What I have said is that I don't believe that it is very compassionate to destroy the global economy and condemn billions of people to perpetual poverty trying to stop climate change. The poor people in our world deserve better! Question: How can you expect us to give you any credence when you talk about “trust”, “authenticity”, “fairness” and “a Culture of Love and Care”? Answer: I'm not sure how any of your questions are relevant to my essay. I believe in trust, authenticiy, fairness, and creating a culture of love and care. Indeed, those are the major values that I live my life by and the opinions I have about unions, health care, and climate change are completely consistent with those values. Question: Why would you expect us to spend our hard-earned money at your stores any longer, John Mackey? Do you think that by writing a specious and turgid column, you would make us forget your odious past? Answer: You are free to shop whereever you like Jim. I do not believe my essay is either specious or turgid, but is in fact consistent with how I live my life and how I lead Whole Foods. I'm quite proud of my past and do not consider it odious in the slightest. I'm sorry that you do and I hope you will find it in your heart to forgive me for all the terrible crimes that you believe that I'm guilty of.
03/18/2010 5:30:24 PM CDT
Jeff says ...
I always love your blogs. They are not only thought-provoking, but at times, inspiring. One thing I'd like to add about our students though. It is true that our schools too often serve their educational bureaucracy and teachers’ unions instead of their students and their parents. However, there's a bigger picture that's rarely discussed. Parental responsibility. My wife teaches in the Baltimore City School System. Her students have zero respect for teachers, and often make it nearly impossible for her to teach. They won't listen to her or any other teacher because most don't listen to their parents, or their parents simply never taught them how to respect others - especially elders and their teachers. We can mandate rules for teachers and administrators, but you can't mandate parenting. It is a sad fact that I am reminded of every time I hear another story from my wife. I would love to see our politicians try to teach for one day in a real Baltimore city School. I'd love to see what they would do when a junkie mother comes in an assaults a teacher in the middle of a lesson or when a kid walks over to the corner and urinates, not thinking for a second he's doing anything wrong. This is real stuff, and it happens every day. I feel bad for the teachers that have to deal with this, but I feel even worse for these kids. Because being raised that way, they'll never have a shot at anything in life. They'll never know anything more than their immediate surroundings. Which is often overwhelmed with drugs, violence and complacency. Teachers can't fix this. The solution must start in the home. The only question is, how does that happen. Because again, you can't mandate parenting. Thanks again for the great blog posts (and for reading this little diatribe).
03/19/2010 3:33:44 PM CDT
K. Gadsby says ...
In response to Mr. Jim Capatelli I wonder the basis upon which you come to the seeming certain conclusions you arrive at about the character of Mr. Mackey. It would appear that you have thrown out his utterly inspirational essay on the high truth organization based on what I am am unsure. The man has not been perfect but all I can see is that there is a heart beating strong for the sake of wellness, honesty and the organic foods movement. Let it thrive. Let it continue.
03/20/2010 9:58:26 PM CDT
Bill Burnett says ...
Thank you for your post: Creating High Trust Organizations. It brought to mind Muhammad Yunus’s observation “One cannot but wonder how an environment can make people despair and sit idle and then, by changing the conditions, one can transform the same people into matchless performers.” The thing that Yunus changes through his Grameen Bank is he truly empowers people. I’ve worked in environments where the leadership believes, as you do, in the extraordinary value of empowering employees, and they fail in delivering true empowerment to their employees. When I read your article I wanted an answer to ‘How’? How do you do it? How do you empower employees? Experts often answer questions like this with pablum like: “Don't just delegate the drudge work; delegate some of the fun stuff, too. You know, delegate the important meetings, the committee memberships that influence product development and decision making, and the projects that people and customers notice.” But this does not get you ‘matchless performers’. It gets you workers who are somewhat more engaged. Companies that fail to sustain competitive advantage are companies that ultimately fail to innovation. The critical barrier to innovation is the mindset that we all develop when we do the same thing over and over again. There is a phenomenon in our brains in which repetition makes it harder and harder for us to recognize anomalies. Very often these anomalies represent opportunities. Just as often, these opportunities are noticed by junior people in the organization, but they are unable to get traction because more senior management cannot see them. Yet this is where empowerment provides the most valuable leverage. New opportunities almost always look crazy at first. Einstein was right on target when he said: “If at first the idea is not absurd, there is no hope for it.” The key is to find ways to empower employees to move these ideas along even where management thinks the idea is wrong. I have done a lot of work in this area and think I’ve identified some very useful enablers that the leadership can use to truly empower employees, without breaking the bank. I don’t doubt that with your natural inclinations, one or two of these you would find useful in Whole Foods. But really, I would love to have you take a look and give me some feedback. I would be delighted to send these to you if you’d like. By the way, I am a happy and frequent customer.
03/22/2010 1:24:00 PM CDT
Philip Cardwell says ...
Looking at Whole Foods mission statement I see that at the very top you list "Selling the highest quality natural and organic products available". If that's the case, you really need to see this and change your practices concerning the sale of seafood that is imported. This ABC news report about the issue; it's shocking to say the least. For example, in the US only 1% of the imported seafood is tested. In Alabama where ALL imported seafood IS tested, 50%-60% is rejected (for various health risks). I think it's safe to assume that IF whole Foods were to test their imported seafood, at least 50% would be deemed "not for consumer consumption" by law. Come on Whole Foods, we expect to pay more when we shop with you; but we also expect safe food. Here is the video on YouTube:
03/22/2010 3:57:53 PM CDT
N Graham says ...
John- This is right on, but the problem we have today is that weeds (and their consequences) thrive with the same water and nutrients that more useful plants need/use. We are less disciplined, less organized and less willing to expend the effort to cultivate the "good things", and so the weeds, that are opportunistic, overwhelm us. If you have not seen this recent show on trying to bring in "real food" to a school lunch program, it is worth watching. Not that you do not already know how important real food is, but how stunning it is that processed food is the norm as compared to when we were growing up. Like watching the making of healthcare sausage this weekend, our society is in deep trouble. It will take and enormous effort to weed the garden and get us back on a sane path.
03/22/2010 9:28:02 PM CDT
George Soria says ...
Dear John, I enjoyed reading your blog about what is needed in our society, and organizations. I concur with your comments on trust, care, love and demonstrating those qualities in our organization to our employees and customers. So I offer you a solution, on how we can extend that trust, care, love to the community whom need it now more than ever lower the cost of healthcare. My mission is to accomplish this task. Since you are involved in so many communities prehaps we can do it together.
03/23/2010 3:25:36 AM CDT
Mark Price says ...
I applaud you and your views Mr. Mackey. I wish I had a boss like you!
03/23/2010 12:33:45 PM CDT
Shayne says ...
I like what you're writing, what I find interesting is it's very similar to what fellow natural industry colleges of yours such Jeffrey Hollender, David Korten, Woody Tasch, Ralph Nader have been saying for years, and yet you are the only one that seems to really still believe in the Wall Street ways. Do you really believe after everything that has happened with Wall Street, that it really can be changed, maybe it just needs to be replaced. The values that you're talking about can only work in a Main Street economy not a Wall Street one. The current form of capitalism has literally cannibalized itself. Wall Street companies are saying they're too big to fail. Come on, if you really believe in the free market, then great, but if you fail you fail, there's no company too big to fail. I think from what I gather what frustrates people about some of these views is that Whole Foods is involved in a holistic industry and yet doesn't seem don't apply that holistic approach past the food into our actual thinking in all forms is important, as Einstein said best "you can solve the problems, using the same thinking that created the problems in the first place".
03/26/2010 3:19:11 PM CDT
Dorothy Wright says ...
Here are some of my experiences at Whole Foods at 6th & Lamar in Austin, Texas which show how a vision can impact a life & a community: just 2 weeks ago I met a woman (probably in her 60's like me)sharing samples of her beef grown on her ranch. She looked me in the eye & said, "I grow it here, with no hormones & no antibiotics, all natural." I believe her, I am sure she is eating it too. A few months ago while discussing with a stranger, but a fellow WFs shopper, which soymilk to buy, I mentioned I put soymilk in my coffee. She said, "I am a coffee grower, in town to visit my daughter." & she walked me over to the aisle where her coffee was on the shelf. Recently a really tasty kale crunch snack which I had previously bought at Sunset Valley Farmers Market showed up for sale in WFs. These things aren't accidents, they are part of a mission to forward health and community. I have been shopping at Whole Foods since it started in it's first store in Austin. Someone forwarded to me the "news" about the frozen vegetables but it didn't make me waver in my trust. In a country so plagued by illness that handling it becomes a governmental issue, and "curing it" rakes in profit for pharmaceutical companies, I find a criticism of the hallmark of nutrtional change which leads to health, to be at best specious. (it makes me wonder what vested interest is trying discredit healthy food sources) There are so many, many, many good things in Whole Foods, I love shopping there. I can't imagine Austin without it.
03/26/2010 6:43:39 PM CDT
JenBree says ...
Mr. Mackey, The link and article posted by DanMan was quite an eye opener. I hope you will respond to his posting as this may very well be a deciding factor in whether many choose to trust claims/statements made by Whole Foods, and thus choose to remain customers. Can we, the customers, rely on the claims/statements of Whole Foods? Is it all just marketing lies/gimmicks? Does Whole Foods walk the talk? Has Whole Foods reached a size where it can no longer offer transparency and truth?
03/28/2010 11:56:57 AM CDT
Stacie Froman says ...
John~ I thank you sincerely for this post. My name is Stacie Froman, and I have only been with WF for just nearing three weeks. I have been hopeful for the opportunity to work for this company for some time because of it's incredible reputation and mission. However, it was having the opportunity to read this blog that really inspired me to just walk into the Tulsa store and insist that I must be a part of this company. In the weeks that I was seeking to know more about the company I came across some negative news via the internet. It appeared that the blogging had attracted negative hype. So, I was interested to learn your thoughts on the subject. I came to the WF site and found that you had actually blogged about it, in great detail and length. I was so REFRESHED :D I have never seen such honesty and humaness in a company of this size, and especially not from the CEO. It was during the Town Hall meeting with Walter Robb in Tulsa last night that this came up. One of the team members was inquiring about your decision to step out of your position as Chairman of the Board, and asking what that means. I desired to respond to the inquiry because I was made aware of your thoughts surrounding that decision through your blog, "Latest 8K Filing" posted December 24th. Which kept me engaged and reading other posts for three days consecutively. It was really the final nudge I needed to be confident about making WFM my home. It was just so valuable to learn about your vision from you, and not solely through second hand media. Even though the subject matter may be a challenge to discuss because of the negativity associated with the subject matter. I appreciated that you trusted me as an anonymous reader ( about two months ago prior to my employement with WFM ) to learn about the events that transpired, your reaction to the accusations, your own thoughts about your actions; and your love for the company. I really thank you for your vulnerability and honesty. So often, leadership avoids vulnerability at all cost. As an "employee" vulnerability is a reality. To depend on someone else's success for the success and welfare of ourselves is frightening. Yet as a people we are dependant upon one another to live our lives. It is my opinion that our current culture in this country has become a big promoter of self interest over community action. In the media, the military seems to have come this realization with their campaign, "Army of One". It is nice to see that changing within the heart of larger cities, where they are practicing the community cooperative living; with project such as the urban community gardens and the like. Yet, self interest really has become the norm for mainstream businesses in practice. I think of these Superstore style grocers who mistreat employees, exploit and cheat the manufacturer and small businesses, and simply lie to the consumer. They are a prime example of this "self-interest" mentality. I see it time and time again. They say, " Here are the values we believe are ideal, but in reality this is what we do.". I am in a store here in the Southwest that appears to be attracting a great amount of positive feedback from the community, so how could I not get excited about that? However, leaving the job I was with for my position with Whole Foods was a big decision for me. It requires a commute, a slight reduction in pay, and putting all of my heart and energy into starting over. That was a bit scary. However, I am so happy that I made the decision to be a part of this. I have no regrets at all. I am blown away by the team members, the environment, the enthusiasm and encouragement of the leadership in the store. I really haven't experienced this with any other company, and certinly not of this size. In closing, I just appreciate that you shared the truth of what the company is and of who you are, with me. I am grateful that I am able to bring my entire person to the job, and not leave 60% of my identity at home to work for WF. I enjoy that I have the freedom to share my experience with whole food and healthy living with guests, and that it isn't just a "pitch". It makes this entire experiance completely unique and a lot of fun. Whole heartedly, I agree, "empowerment, transparency, authentic communication, fairness, love and care." It's exciting to be a part of it. Thank you sincerely for your words. ~Stacie Anna Froman~ " "Man wishes to be confirmed in his being by man, and wishes to have a presence in the being of the other…. Secretly and bashfully he watches for a YES which allows him to be and which can come to him only from one human person to another." — Martin Buber (I and Thou)
03/31/2010 6:57:01 AM CDT
John Mackey says ...
To Shayne, Your comment is an odd comment for a couple of reasons: 1. Contrary to your claim: David Korten, Woody Tasch, and Ralph Nader are not colleagues of mine in the natural products industry because none of them have worked in the industry (Jeffrey Hollender has and I like and respect Jeffrey a great deal). David Korten has written a few anti-capitalism books. Woody Tasch is one of the leaders of the Slow Money movement. Ralph Nader is about as anti-business and anti-capitalist as anyone I've ever met. I'm not sure what any of these folks, besides Jeffery, have to do with either Whole Foods Market or the natural products industry? 2. Regarding Wall Street: I've criticized Wall Street many times. I certainly don't believe any business is too big to fail and I was in fact opposed to the $700 billion stimulus bill as a waste of tax payer money as well as all of the bailouts to Wall Street. I'm not sure where you are getting your information about me, but you should check your sources. It isn't accurate information. To DanMan and JenBree, We only buy a very small percentage of our organic foods from China--less than 1% of our sales. We trust the integrity of the organic foods we buy from China just as much as we trust the integrity of the organic foods we buy from 50 other countries including Mexico, Guatemala, Ethiopia, Thailand Kenya, Tanzania, Peru, Honduras, India, and Indonesia to name just a few. Since we label all our products with country of origin you are completely free to boycott organic products from China sold at Whole Foods if you don't trust these products. However, we've decided that Whole Foods isn't going to boycott China or stop selling selected certified organic foods from China at this time. To Philip Cardwell, All the farmed seafood that Whole Foods buys has been third party certified to its production methods which don't allow most of the chemicals that you are concerned about. Please read about what we are doing right here: FYI--no other food retailer in the United States is doing this. Also, over the next few months Whole Foods will be launching across the company full transparency regarding species by species sustainability in partnership with Monterey Bay Aquarium and Blue Ocean Institute.
03/31/2010 8:08:34 PM CDT
Terry Gannon says ...
It is most revealing to find the comments here as highly supportive for the most part of a way of thinking that is most admirable and positive, and speaks well to the evolution we should be on in our thought process, both about entreprise and its need to be free and about the political framework that would serve us best. Asking some folks recently is the left-right political paradigm going to be workable in the future? The answer was a resounding NO. How to ask people to think more clearly, how can they be the best thought leaders in our society and what price are we willing to pay to make this happen?, this a key if not defining question. That is yet another intrepetation of this set of wonderful ideas. Keep going strong, John.
03/31/2010 8:28:13 PM CDT
Bryan Brodie says ...
I just wanted to say that your April Fool's website is absolutely hilarious! My wife and I could not stop laughing at "Patchouli Pam" - though I am not sure how your stereotypical customer "Pam" is going to feel when she sees this joke! I am very impressed with a company that can have fun poking holes in its own carefully cultured image. There must be a "soul" in there somewhere! I suspect Mr. Mackey had a lot to do with this April Fools "promotion"... As far as some of the criticism of Whole Foods' practices in this thread, all of you are free to shop elsewhere - the beauty of the "marketplace". Heck, think you can do better and make a profit? Go for it! There is obviously demand in the marketplace for a retailer offering the organic quality and selection offered by Whole Foods, with the more aggressive pricing of WalMart. When "recycled aluminum foil" is $7 or $8 a roll, and Reynolds Wrap is $4, there is obviously room for price improvement. Perhaps Mr. Mackey will preempt his competition and address this void in the marketplace before another retailer steps in. All of you folks posting here are free to offer suggestions and criticism - and Whole Foods is free to listen or ignore what you are saying. If WF management had to respond to every internet story, rumor and irate blog post, there would be no time to run the company. And, 98% of the time, unless WF management were to post "you are absolutely right, we are wrong/evil/greedy/exploitative and we'll never do it again" - you're not going to be satisfied anyway, and you're going to keep shopping at Whole Foods anyway!
04/01/2010 9:08:13 AM CDT
the Cynical Investor says ...
Nice post but it still the bottom line that drives companies and it is logical.
04/03/2010 3:54:00 PM CDT
Kathy Toomey says ...
Hi John - I got to your blog after a number of links. Originated from me trying to decide if a "boycott" of WF was justified. I do not ever automatically assume that the "talking point" is actually on point. I find your background and your writings both positive (in theory) and enjoyable. I have been a union member, vegetarian, vegan, environmentalist, animal right activist and health care worker for ~ 30 year, so your writings are of special interest to me. I have never been to a WF store as there are none close, but do plan to visit one soon. Just curious - are you still a vegan? Thank you for your blog.
04/04/2010 8:49:38 AM CDT