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, Amazon.com, 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.

Conclusion

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.

 

57 Comments

Comments

woody tasch says ...
i guess i should weigh in, as i've been mentioned a few times, and glad to be. those of us of in the slow money alliance are working to support local food systems and small food enterprises because we share john mackey's concern for trust, which could also be referred to as social capital. or, better yet, we can refer to it as direct relationships with others who live in your community and bioregion. we should do nothing but applaud the efforts of companies like whole foods to build corporate culture committed to trust and transparency. but the rest of us can and should do more. because as an enterprise scales, and as its ownership becomes widely dispersed, it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain trust and transparency, to maintain direct relationships with others who live in your community and bioregion. there are inherent challenges that come with scale. you wouldn't use a back hoe to plant a garlic bulb. we must recognize the efficiencies that come with scale, but we must also recognize that there is a shadow side to these efficiencies. this is why the slow money alliance is working to connect investors to one another in the places where they live, in order to begin steering meaningful new sources of capital to small food enterprises. the main thing to remember: this is not either/or. it is not anti-all-big-companies. it is pro-small, pro-local, pro-slow. it is pro-balance. our economy and our culture are sorely out of balance, with all of our investment capital streaming towards bigger and bigger, faster and faster, more and more global. so let's drop the "either you are with us or against us" mentality, and stay focused on balance. is balance 1% of our money going local? 5%? or, heaven forfend, 50%? we will figure that out over time. but we should all be able to agree that 99.9% of our capital streaming into global capital markets, fueling derivatives and all manner of volatility, complexity and excess that no one can any longer understand or manage, does not represent healthy balance. we cannot be healthy if our sole measures of success as companies and investors are benchmarked against indices of endless industrial growth and endless promotion of consumerism. this is a treadmill with disastrous global consequences. we must bring our money back down to earth. not all of it, perhaps, but meaningful amounts of it. this is what those of us in the slow money alliance are doing. working to fix america's economy, from the ground up. . .starting with food. and, in the process, rebuilding trust, from the ground up. woody tasch
05/02/2010 12:14:38 PM CDT
Kavita says ...
Thanks John for giving such an insightful perspective on organizational trust. I truly abide by what you talked about in this article. This particular blog reminds me of Vineet Nayar’s, book on “Employees First Customers Second”, where he discussed about gaining trust through transparency in an organization by creating a culture of change and participation. He wanted his employees to work as a family and involve in the participative culture of the company. His “Mirror Mirror” concept has highlighted the importance of authentic communication that brought about open and honest conversations about issues in the company giving a clearer picture not only to employees but to the management as well.
10/15/2010 9:24:55 AM CDT
William says ...
back to non-Whole Foods Issues. You want to transform the United States? You'll need more than a good moral compass, and you'll need to know more than you appear to. Most of the people that are running the country are predatory, not amoral, there is huge difference.
04/27/2010 3:26:27 PM CDT
Elwood says ...
I visited this website because I am an MBA student working on my final project which happens to be about Whole Foods. Whole Foods is an interesting company with an interesting business model but after visiting this site I'm more amazed at the prolix postings from senior leadership at Whole Foods. I do not feel that the postings are right or wrong; they just seem odd.
04/27/2010 7:19:26 PM CDT
Marie Pot says ...
As for this being a required reading in B schools. What John Mackay writes is a part of the B school corriculum. As a current M.B.A (Finance) it isn't anything new, however, it is a very difficult thing to achieve as most human beings do not want to elevate to a higher conciousness as it takes being comfortable with who you are and knowing what your purpose is. Some people never know and it's sad. I tend to keep moving in an upward direction and I think a new consciousness is emerging but it's taking a lot of time.
05/05/2010 9:42:10 PM CDT
William says ...
I worked in Washington DC for a number of years. You here are confusing "the people that have been running Washington DC" with "concerned citizens" or of having some purpose other than making themselves richer....regardless of the consequences to the United States. There has always been a class of individuals involved with the United States Government that has been concerned with how to best use the government to make themselves richer. The people that have dominated the country's governmental systems have been shielded from the reality of what life as a citizen of these United States is like by living in ECONOMICALLY GATED COMMUNITIES. They don't inhabit the same world that you do....they don't experience the same pain that you do when jobs are shipped overseas....and they don't believe in the United States they believe in the brotherhood of wealth. You people on the outside "the citizens of these United States," including John Mackey, don't have a clue as to who the good guys and the bad guys are. But here's a big clue, there are no requirements that legislators be interested in understanding the dynamics of the business ecosystems that they govern....simply that they get elected is proof of their competence....in their opinion and since the attention span of most Americans is about that of a fruit fly they find no argument. American citizens are ruled by emotions and other peoples facts. They don't have the capacity to look at a situation and understand it even though there are clues the size of the NY Stock Exchange...you don't fix that with a twenty minute speech.... You all are so busy being ruled by propaganda that you can't see the world in front of you. You argue facts that are manufactured and wonder why you can't reach rational conclusions. There is a point at which you have to examine the facts and quit rehashing over other peoples interpretations. You also need to realize that anyone looking at the mess in an unprejudiced fashion would come to the same conclusions....and take some action not talking about failed values....or morals....it's an engineering problem, not a moral one.
04/27/2010 10:36:28 AM CDT
Bill Reynolds says ...
this is not a comment to be posted...thanks. John, I have been working in this same industry (our trails have crossed) at virtually all levels over some 35 years and remain impressed at what has been created in Whole Foods. In the context of creating (and recreating) a high trust organization I believe I have something to offer. I would welcome the opportunity to communicate with you about the talents I can bring to the table. this is not so much about a job as it is about communication of beliefs and ideals. If this note gets to your attention and you would like me to actually introduce myself, please respond to my Email (wm.s.reynolds@gmail.com) and I will send you some info about myself and how I think I can be of benefit. Yours, Bill Reynolds
10/19/2010 1:40:46 PM CDT
Skeptic in SoCal says ...
John, What you're saying here is great, but from what I've heard the Whole Foods environment is far from the idealistic dream-of-a-workplace you describe above. I have several friends who've worked at Whole Foods Markets over the years and believe me when I say, none of them ever mentioned feeling empowered, or inspired on the job. As an example, I have a friend who has been working for your company for 3+ years. She is now 8 months pregnant and despite the fact that she has been a loyal employee, your company refuses to allow her to sit and work even when she's in the back where customers can't see her. Forcing a pregnant woman to stand on her feet for 8 hours...This is asinine!!! And, it is but one of many injustices I've heard WF employees describe. The empowered, healthy, transparent and FAIR work environment you've so carefully crafted above starts with YOU taking care of your employees. I suggest you re-evaluate the reality the WF environment (ever seen that show Undercover Boss?!) Your goals are admirable, but unfortunately I think you have a looooong way to go before your company is truly practicing what you are preaching.
03/24/2012 4:15:30 PM CDT
Veronica says ...
John, we were born the same year. We both benefited from the movements of the 30s for unionism, fair labor practices, and other social engineering programs like social security benefits and Medicare--which made us able to move into a stable social environment and not have to worry about supporting our parents in their old age. Your life and mine would both have been very different without these factors--yet we had done nothing to create them, we merely benefited. How soon many people our age have "forgotten" what creates a stable and healthy society--not free markets and privatization, but the twin forces of people and gov't battling for social justice and reining in corporate power. I will no longer shop at Whole Foods and I will encourage others (I teach college and have many contacts in community and political groups) to find another source of healthy foods--there are many. Your piece on health care reform and the tone of your bloggings lead me to believe you have odd attitudes indeed, the kind of self-congratulatory and therefore blinkered views often held by people who "succeed." Your success has more to do with the fights for social justice of the generation before yours and the zeitgeist you grew up in than they have with your abilities or philosophies. You were lucky and now you want others to rely on luck for health care and security in old age. Really, shame on you.
04/24/2010 7:40:30 PM CDT
Dr. Lisa Sulsenti says ...
Mr. Mackey, I have spent the past 15 years counseling patients on nutrition and alternative healthcare. I have a private chiropractic and nutrition practice and recently started blogging about healthy living ideas. This concept includes mindfulness to the planet, our bodies and one another as fellow beings. I found your blog to be one of the best examples of serving the universe with intent, compassion and true wisdom. One of my blogs, in fat, a few months back was questioning if their were any Soulful CEO's out there..in business, in education, in healthcare and esp. in food regulations. I stumbled upon your blog when checking out Whole Foods Website for sales at our local market. I can't tell you how honored I am to have met you thru it. Its common practice for me to blog and teach about healthy recipes, foods and stores like yours. In fact, your store is mentioned many times over and over. I never thought to look beyond the amazing foods and services offered at Whole Foods Market and see how truly a soulful, successful CEO stands behind it. No structure is perfect, but if your values and mindfulness to your employees, consumers and country could be applied to problems we face as a society as whole, man would we be so better off. Thank you for being true to your soul; to your values; to humanity.. Yours In Health, Dr. Lisa Sulsenti
04/24/2010 9:02:31 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
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
Shayne says ...
That's interesting about the Economic Freedom Index, I've been working with a company in Ireland, and I can tell you that their economy is not doing so well. That's why the ended up voting for the Lisbon Treaty even after voting it down less than two years before. I personally don't equate the freer the economy with being the wealthier as a society. Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations which a lot of libertarian and free-market capitalists like to use to back up their views was rules based and supported a Main Street economy not a Wall Street one. Korten's latest book Agenda for a New Economy: from Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth articulates the differences very well. The creation of wealth is slower and fits into a lot of what Woody Tache's Slow Money movement is talking about. Everything is relative, it's understandable that you believe what you do considering you've created such an amazing company and doing so in a Wall Street context, that doesn't mean its dublicatible and most Wall Street companies are corrupt. I commend you for what you've done, but the reason Hollander has different political views is because he's probably experienced another reality that you obviously haven't seen yet in regards to Wall Street!!!
04/21/2010 3:38:02 PM CDT
Alexia Bowers says ...
I think that one of the things that hinders the facilitation of trust, transparency, and following organizational purpose is that the legal and organizational systems often punish the behaviors. It seems important to bake it into the structure and processes - for example, the teams approach highlighted in the post. It reminds me of the Agile Software Development movement in the software industry, which originated to help software teams become more efficient, transparent, and gelled. Interestingly, I think that you can see the more engineering bent in Agile, but some of the outcomes are similar. As far as structures and practices go, something that might be interesting and related: this post by one of my coworkers on our company blog about alternatives to the shareholder-driven model and helping organizations find their true purpose: http://www.holacracy.org/blog/beyond-serving-stakeholders.
04/08/2010 5:58:23 PM CDT
Lucas says ...
Woody Tasch submitted a comment on May 2nd and it has not been published. If you decide for some reason not to publish it, could you please send me the comment for Slow Money's own records.
05/04/2010 10:05:09 AM CDT
Ronald Punch says ...
Dear Mr. Mackey: Your points about mistrust are well-taken. There is, and has been, a systemic decline in the trustworthiness of governments, corporations, health care embodiments, financial institutions and in our school systems. This mistrust may extend to religious establishments, as well. The answer to this conundrum is baffling and enigmatic, but the cause is clearly from the explosive increase information gathering and dissemination. Certainly this is a two-edged sword as trust an information may often conflict. As a loyal Whole Foods customer for nearly a decade I have seen how the Whole Foods philosophies help to deliver both a new sense of awareness about what we put in and on our bodies and level of trust in those products that is absent in competitive establishments. Additionally, as a service vendor to a number of Whole Foods Market locations, I have experienced how the team approach to management operates to a higher standard as compared with other companies with whom I deal. My question to you is how do we, as a people, apply these standards to curtail the mistrust you identified?
04/19/2010 10:36:10 PM CDT
Pete Morris says ...
“I believe that capitalism primarily equates to economic freedom.” Is this definition derived from Adam Smith, or something that you originated yourself? The term, capitalism, generally has negative connotations on the political Left, as you surely know. My belief is that people who condemn capitalism don't know what it is. But if people make up their own definitions to terms, it muddles the communication. And if self-styled capitalists who don't know the nature of this economic tool keep abusing it out of ignorance, the ability for us to use capitalism to promote the general welfare of the country will remain unnecessarily embattled. The thing about Whole Foods, Inc., is that it actually embodies capitalism---as Adam Smith described it. To the extent that you don't understand this, a tremendous opportunity for the country is lost---even as the Company continues to thrive. I wish I could remember what my previous post (which didn't make the cut) asked of you. Reading this definition
04/22/2010 11:19:40 PM CDT
michelle says ...
Hi John How are you? My name is Michelle and I would love an opportunity to present a few innovative ideas and suggestion in regards to the Wholefoods Group. I'm a food chemist and a passionate food tragic, would love an chance to convey my ideas and highlight my talents for you and your team for consideration. Kind Regards, Michelle
04/15/2010 2:24:45 PM CDT
John Mackey says ...
To Kathy Toomey, Yes, I am still a vegan--just about 7 years now. I'm also a Board Member of two non-profit animal welfare organizations--The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and The Global Animal Partnership (GAP). To Shayne, I do like and respect Jeffrey Hollender, although we are pretty far apart politically (one can like and respect a person without agreeing with them about many things). I do believe David Korten is anti-capitalist and I believe his book "When Corporations Rule the World", which I read, makes his anti-capitalist beliefs crystal clear. Regarding Ralph Nader, if he is in favor of capitalism he has never articulated it to my knowledge. Rather, he has a 45 year history of consistently criticizing business, corporations, and capitalism. I agree that people seem to have divergent views about what capitalism is. I believe that capitalism primarily equates to economic freedom. An economic system is capitalistic to the degree that it permits and promotes economic freedom. A useful ranking to look at is the Economic Freedom Index which is published annually: http://www.heritage.org/index/ranking.aspx The United States has now fallen to #8 in economic freedom in the world behind Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Switzerland, and Canada. As a general rule, the freer the economy (the more capitalistic) the wealthier the society. The United States losses in economic freedom over the past few years portend a relative drop in our future prosperity.
04/16/2010 9:00:38 AM CDT
Laura Reichel says ...
First, to Mr. Mackey: I enjoyed reading your essay and fully support an organization, especially on such a scale, that actively pursues a higher purpose and the values outlined here. While we must recognize that some failings are inevitable in both our business and personal lives, the striving and intention towards these values gives Whole Foods the legitimacy that some of your more cynical posters seem to miss. I would also like to address Veronica's comment "How soon many people our age have “forgotten” what creates a stable and healthy society–not free markets and privatization, but the twin forces of people and gov’t battling for social justice and reining in corporate power." First off, I am half your age and thanks to your generation "creating a stable and healthy society", my generation gets to, for example, pick up the peices of your grand Social Security fiasco and somehow support an aging population in a struggling economy. Believe me, I am as socially liberal as they come, but really, you must brush up on your economics. Secondly, I am equally disturbed by your comment implying that you will use your influence as a college professor and community figure to prevent individuals from patronizing Whole Foods. While you certainly may use your economic dollars to cast your vote against the company, I question your ethics in influencing young people to not shop there on the basis of your personal political views. As a teacher, you should present information and encourage discussions leading to individual decisions based on that data, not force feeding propaganda from either side to your highly vulnerable students. Your negative comments further convince me that "it is better to have tried and failed" than give up in pessimistic hopelessness. I would also like to encourage your generation to stop looking back upon "the golden age" which has never existed in history. Thanks John and commentors for a stimulating read.
07/30/2010 5:59:58 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
William says ...
what's the point? you consider unalloyed positivism to the unvarnished truth? my comments have disappeared. either there is a quirk in the system that misleads the posters...comments disappear and appear to have been rejected while they are being processed or I have pushed a button in you. If I have pushed a button in you... your blog isn't a blog is it, if you only let through things that agree with your worldview... Norman Vincent Peale won't cure cancer. And Leeuwenhoek didn't invent the weird little creatures swimming in pond water he made them visible. What is is, not wanting to see _it_ doesn't make it more addressable. And Leeuwenhoek didn't invent what made us sick that we couldn't see yet. Not recognizing that people are predators means that having a high trust operation will never occur except as an anomaly, you can't teach someone something that doesn't have a semantic basis in their predatory-interpretation system. A predator herds sheep by chasing them, as long as the sheep keep moving to their chasing the predator continues it's behavior. If the sheep start talking about high principles and holding to them, the predator starts agreeing with the sheep and slowly reframing what the sheep has said until the sheep are agreeing with _him_ and starts the chasing again. Want to change it? You have to see the predators as predators not wrong-thinkers. You have to give the sheep permission to get rid of the predators. For instance: If the Republicans are blocking regulation of the banking industry because they want the sheep to let them reframe what regulation is so that they get to keep chasing sheep and eating them....it would be a good idea to reduce their ability to ever chase sheep again, now that they have been identified by taking away their financial clout, take away their ability to affect the system. By identifying them as "having a different opinion," you prevent yourself from seeing that they use opinions to chase sheep with....that opinions are tools to use against rational thinkers with ideals, not something that they believe in....whatever makes the sheep move in the direction that they want them to is what they do...they don't have ideals they make the sheep run in the direction that they want them to....and it's for their singular benefit not for the good of the country. perhaps I'm a bit quick off of the blocks here but your mechanism for communication should communicate both ways....
04/29/2010 7:29:49 AM 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
Jillibean says ...
What a refreshing read! Looking forward to reading more of your blogs...I have the New Yorker featuring the article about you and your company...it's cool to have the opportunity to get your side of the story. I just moved to Austin, and visited the flagship store for the first time today. Nice concept, customer friendly. Best of luck...
04/09/2010 7:33:37 PM CDT

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