75 Comments

Comments

Kaihaan Jamshidi says ...
So much to say...the most interesting debate I have read recently. I will try to keep it short: 1. It is interesting to note the profession/industry for each of the debate participants. Nature or nurture? 2. My experience of the market Whole Foods works in is that it is niche, low volume, high margin (relative to its grocery multiple competitors). This typically allows, even requires, some room for personality. If (or when if you are a believer) the wider market catches up will the company still have the time and energy to afford such a generous strategy? 3. Mr Mackeys argument is very attractive to me because unlike many it makes explicit the fact that it rests on a perception of human nature and secondly that the human nature he describes is one I recognise and accept. Why do people keep trying to theorise real human beings out of the equation?
11/01/2005 5:59:36 PM CST
trott lejeune says ...
good reading, albeit short. i would enjoy to hear a further debate between mr. friedman and john (he has always been john to the team members) as to what is the essential purpose of business. it is unfortunate that we could not have experienced a further definition of 'noble purpose' (as john mentioned in the article). some of friedman's early articles and indeed the economic theories he has written on continue to be relative and i appreciate his comments on the wfm business paradigm. however, for those of us who 'choose' to also look into other business models like those written upon in books such as "the fortune at the bottom of the pyramid" or "banker to the poor" or any of the other books concerned w/ the theory that there can be profits in purpose as well, these are models of leadership that lend themselves better to a fluid development in a true capital economy in my opinion. retail and/ or capitalism is/are fluid experiences. the path that wfm has offered many of us who are stakeholders (in any of the groups) has continued to involve us in making constant choices to renew, evolve, and respond in a widening economy and community. dignity can be an awesome choice. blessings, tr0tt
11/03/2005 6:19:06 PM CST
Jeff Eaton says ...
Hats off to John Mackey. Our culture's moral lexicon seems to have collapsed to the language of economcs over the past several decades. While economics is certainly a valuable science, it's one tool in the building and sustaining of a society. If it becomes a closed feedback loop, the measure of and the reason for all activities, we're clearly on the wrong path.
11/07/2005 9:36:43 AM CST
Jennifer LaRese says ...
First off, I must say that it is finally a relief to have a Whole Foods in West Hartford! I recently graduated from law school in May, and am currently pursuing an MBA. I am currently in the process of writing a paper concerning motivation in the workplace. I have chosen your company as the ideal model for my paper. From the information I have gathered, (I spoke with many employees of the company, all of which had extremely positive things to say) and from a business and legal standpoint, you have a very successful enterprise. Cheers to all of your hard work. Thanks so much for allowing me to eat! Jennifer
11/08/2005 2:10:54 PM CST
Bill Rompf says ...
Friedman & those like him are fighting the last war. I think - if you look closely - that Whole Foods is what many companies will resemble in the future. 100 years ago, Ford took concepts of production & labor relations- mass production + a $5/day wage - and changed the whole paradigm. Wal-Mart did it with a whole new business model for retailing (with good & bad resulting.) Twelve years ago, I scraped together enough money to buy Whole Foods stock - I was fresh out of grad school & broke - because WF shared my values and seemed well-run. Thank you, John. Who said nice companies finish last? Ha. Tell that to my kids, who will go to college on daddy's investment!
11/10/2005 3:17:11 PM CST
Christian Baker says ...
Reading your content just made my day. Keep the good work.
11/17/2005 10:49:56 AM CST
Lauren Taylor says ...
I really like the evolution of your political philosophy as covered in your blog. There are many parallels between your point of view and my own. I have been rather revitalized, self defensively, over the last few years and have begun to appreciate what it means to be an American more than any other time in my life.
11/22/2005 7:00:18 PM CST
Ana Deferrari says ...
Hello, my name is Ana and I am a Front End supervisor at the Union Square store in NYC. Saw you on the lines a couple of weeks ago! I must say that I am thrilled about the expansion of the company. Finally, an opening! I have been able to grow both personally and professionally in this company. The positive vibe that is in the store is supportive to the team's growth and in turn the company. I love working amongst the youth and seeing them learn in what is sometimes their first job. The work ethic is incredible! People are happy...customers and employees alike. The core values are met and the absence of a union is not a bad thing. It is so much easier to deal with people directly and not an outside body. Happy workers=Happy store. I wish this had been my first job...Hope to see you again on the lines John.
12/06/2005 11:11:09 PM CST
Brian Wechsler says ...
John advocates that a socially responsible approach is the most effective business model “because they encourage and tap into more powerful motivations than self-interest alone”. This is so fundamental that a contrary debate is almost mind-boggling. At best, the opposing pov is dated and myopic. At worst, it is sinister and has the hard cold veneer of Big Business at its worst. That WFM is a profitable industry leader in the grocery business, where slim margins and intense competition have led to the demise of many a competitor, is clearly due to the success of the philosophy John articulates. The why can easily be seen upon walking into any WFM, from the mind blowing new Austin corporate hq store (my son, a senior at UT Austin said he only wishes he could live there) to the cutting edge Time-Warner facility (Columbus Circle, NYC), to the small out-grown Chapel Hill, NC store and even the original store on Esplanade in New Orleans, now closed (sadly). The how, is the spirit all team members in every store seem to possess, as if they have been empowered and some how elevated. It is truly remarkable to witness and speaks volumes to the rationale of valuing the whole person and social needs of a community and not just a single-minded bottom line mentality. Surely, it must resonate from a central source, a caring corporate philosophy, which is so defiled by John’s critics. John goes on to write, “Businesses like Whole Foods, which adhere to a stakeholder model of deeper business purpose, will dominate the economic landscape. Wait and see.” I hope his prediction prevails, as it is profoundly true, and could ultimately determine if we survive as a species. Take the enlightened principles of Smart Growth and Brownfield Development and compare them to the dark realities of Strip Mining, Urban Sprawl, Love Canal, the Rust Belt and other ugly examples, which are the inevitable byproducts of a “damn the consequences, profit at all costs” mentality. The beauty is that Brownfield Development and principles of Smart Growth can be, and usually are, very profitable, even as they heal the scars of past misdeeds and ultimately make this a better world for all of us. A further evolution in a capitalist approved model could be to incorporate residential development components that are available to all socio-economic levels (dare I say subsidized for the lower income component) and require all to participate in various programs run by elected members of the community. This could involve elder care by teenagers, baby sitting of latch key children by elderly but able members, pet sitting, meal assistance, etc. Introducing all members of a community to one another and providing a positive and safe forum for interaction enhances the experience for all members of the group. Who knows, we might even get to know our neighbors again and do away with gated communities, which give a false sense of security but do nothing to address the fundamental flaws of a have vs. have not society. Maximizing bottom line profitability is always going to be an essential element of any successful business. The path to it can be positive and up lifting or it can be forced and laborious. I choose the former and nominate WFM as a shining example and a beacon of hope.
12/16/2005 6:51:21 PM CST
Sarah says ...
John - Thank you again for creating a wonderful organization! My small NYC start-up recently partnered with your Columbus Circle store to bring the world more all-natural and delicious cacao. I wrote in my blog about our new relationship - your team is great! http://blog.sweetriot.com/blog/2005/12/whole_foods_liv.html sweetriot is a mission-based business. Join us in ours – “to create a more just and celebrated multicultural world for our next generation.” Riotly, Sarah Mastermind & Chief Rioter sweetriot
12/18/2005 7:30:11 PM CST
DJ says ...
WFMI's track record on philanthropy is admirable; and as your organization expands you have a wonderful opportunity to become one of the leaders in corporate responsibility. Through this running discussion (and based on what you feature in your web site), I do not see much reference to WFMI's role in promoting acceptable working conditions in your supply chain. Specifically: - Does WFMI have a code of conduct outlining labor and human rights standards for your suppliers? - Does WFMI enage in any sort of programs to build in your your supply chain the capacity to improve working conditions -- training programs and supplier site assessments/monitoring? - Is WFMI taking any leadership role in advancing acceptable working conditions across your industry? While I recognize there may be a level of reluctance to write about these subjects, leading companies in various industries are finding the courage to stand up for what's right in their industries. I would hope WFMI is among these leaders.
12/26/2005 1:05:18 PM CST
Dan Kelly says ...
So many thank you's to Mr. Mackey and the entire WFM company that I don't know where to start. I enriched my life by becoming an employee of WFM this past August. A business philosophy that fashions common sense and integrity together, unlike any employer I've ever worked for. I truly feel blessed working for WFM. I strongly believe in Mr. Mackey's sentiments of corporate responsibilty, giving back to the community, supporting those who support us, helping the less fortunate farmers, growers, etc. to survive during these "corporate" times. So, once again THANK YOU for coming to West Hartford, WFM. You have made a differance in so many lives here.
12/29/2005 10:56:40 AM CST
Steven Zax says ...
I really enjoyed the discussion between Friedman and Mackey. I have been shopping at Whole Foods for years and especially enjoy the ethics/taste/quality of their meat products (especially the filet he served Rodgers). However, a recent dispute at a whole foods store and the inability to find anyone at the local or regional level to treat me with the customer service philosophy that Mackey espouses has left me somewhat disillusioned. No doubt I will still shop there but without the holding the former impression of such altruistic endeavors.
01/03/2006 2:18:51 PM CST
Michael Garjian says ...
Refreshing comments on democratic socialism and democratic capitalism John. I went through same situation when starting my manufacturing business in 1971. Since then I've employed 450 people manufacturing my innovative technologies, been granted 9 worldwide patents, done a joint venture with the world's largest company (1992) and been given awards by my employees. My recent community development work has received considerable regional media acclaim. Google me for details. My conclusions? It's not about democratic socialism or capitalism. The problem is that this is an unsustainable economic model and regardless of whether one is left, right, demo soc, demo cap, etc, the economic system is now unraveling. Much of what is being done by the Bushies, Greenspans, and others is simply re-arranging deckchairs on the Titanic. On Jan 1, 2000, I wrote the first page of my personal manifesto describing how to build a raft for those of us who see things in another light. One person became 3 then 8 then scores, and now many. We now have support of a Congressman, State Senator, educators, entrepreneurs, economists, students etc. I think John and Renee would like this. The www.e2m.org site is a detailed explanation. Better yet, paste www.e2m.org/Founders%20Page/Founders%20Page.htm into browser (Best not to use Microsoft Internet Explorer) and watch the video of my Boston Social Forum lecture to see why the current model is unsustainable. See how we can use the current capitalist system to create a more egalitarian society without destroying incentives to create individual wealth, technologies, etc. WARNING: I am a Massachusetts farmboy so I speak in plain terms and reduce complex issues to simple components. No elasticity curves or other hifalutin malarkey. Keep up the good work at Whole Foods. Michael Garjian
01/05/2006 10:45:34 AM CST
Judy Loverde says ...
Dear Whole Foods, To live without a Whole Foods Market except for a 150-mile drive is to really appreciate you and all you stand for! What a refreshing and nurturing philosophy I have read from this site/link. With all my heart I wish for a Whole Foods Market in Corpus Christi, Texas. Continued success to you, Judy Loverde
01/08/2006 1:14:20 AM CST
Tom Cobb says ...
A very interesting debate, but here is what I think is missing. While there appears to be a philosophical rift between the three, all of them implicitly accept the contemporary corporate model of capitalism. I think the best prospects for reform lie in rethinking this model. And by this, I don't mean as Mackey does that we simply need to implore corporations to consider a broader base of stakeholders. It is quite admirable that he is trying to lead us to a better way by dint of example, but this approach disregards the systemic design flaws that act as substantial barriers to this approach. Much of what is criticized about capitalism is a result of the privileges we extend to our corporations. The body of corporate law that defines our economy is a set of dispensations and privileges that concentrate power, and thus undermine the Invisible Hand that Friedman, Rodgers, and even Mackey profess to believe in. It is with great irony that conservative thinkers dwell on regulation, taxation, and redistribution as the things they find offensive to their professed belief in free markets and liberty. In reality, these are merely the trailing interventions made by government in response to the leading interventions that come in the form of corporate privilege. This doesn't mean that we can do without the corporation. It is the lesser evil as the tool we use for providing economies of scale. Modern technology requires a level of organization and pooling of capital that can only be achieved through government or the corporation. While the corporation provides specific means under the law for concentrating power at a level above the individual (the economy Adam Smith envisioned), it is still something less than what would be granted to governments were they to run our economy. So the corporation may be a lesser evil, but it is still an intervention of government that to some degree unhinges the forces of competition which capitalism relies upon to hold exploitation in check. It is the willful denial of this fact that is the great failing of modern conservatism. By denying this reality, Friedman and the like are always made to conjure odd defenses of the status quo, and project an image of the corporation as a natural instrument of the marketplace. Are there any specific reforms that could rectify this problem? First and foremost, we should retire the ownership model the modern corporation relies upon. Instead of absentee owners being the last bearers of business risk, they should be paid a fixed rate of return, or even better, a fixed share of all wealth created by our corporations (think revenue sharing in the NBA). In turn, workers should become the last bearer's of business risk, and would be responsible for selecting their own leadership. Such a system would deliver manifold benefits: Better leadership, greater innovation, greater productivity, less deception of investors, less deception of consumers, and less undue corporate influence. Why? Simply because the lifeblood of free markets - voluntary exchange and accurate information - would be improved in all respects. As choice and full information are needed in order for the Invisible Hand to work, anything that enhances these two is done for the greater good. Under this model, decision-making would taken from those who are now wholly incompetent for the job - absentee owners - and be given to those already responsible for creating the lion's share of corporate wealth. As well, the agents who now make these decisions on behalf of absentee investors (executives, boards, Wall Street) would have to redefine themselves as leaders, and earn the title by genuinely acting in the interest of those they lead. The net result of this would be that companies would rapidly gravitate towards operating similarly to how WMF now does. Does the fact that Mackey has been able to make this happen under a model of absentee ownership mean that such reforms are unnecessary? Not at all. He has shown that with great fortitude and ingenuity, corporations such as this can come to life. He has not demonstrated that such an outcome can arise naturally, easily, or commonly. WMF is still a 1-in-a-thousand experience. It represents the aberrent result on the far end of the Bell Curve. Cypress SemiConductor, an underperforming company presided over by an imperial executive who actively lobbies for the deception of shareholders (read up on Rodgers lobbying activities) is far more representative of the norm produced by this model of ownership. The driver of this currently normal result is a system designed to concentrate economic power, and then hand it over to an elite set of agents who are then able and inclined to use a web of laws and customs to insulate themselves from the control of those who nominally own these corporations.
01/09/2006 1:10:25 AM CST
will says ...
A couple of thoughts: "I've always fundamentally believed that businesses have to operate within the community, and that the community effectively gives you a licence for your business to exist." Michael Hawker, CEO of Insurance Australia Group (IAG) "If this is kind of a jazzed up modern version of philanthropy, it just isn’t going to work. It really has to be about perceiving a fundamental shift in your business environment to make it strategic to think that we cannot continue to harvest natural and social capital in this way to generate our financial capital." Peter Senge
01/13/2006 6:22:59 PM CST
Michael Garjian says ...
I agree with Tom Cobb on several levels, however, I think the process of change must be able to be implemented at the will of the people without the need for government approval or legislative action. The problem is not just the corporation, it is that the motive for investment in America and most free markets is to achieve maximum profit and growth for the investor. This is also the purpose and legal requirement of the corporation as it acts for the benefit of its limited number of shareholders. Half of the $17 trillion in liquid investible capital is owned by 1% of the population, $1 Trillion is in union pension funds, the other 99% of the populace split the remaining $7.5 Trillion in a highly skewed distribution. Of every 10,000 people in our US population, 20 make more on the purchase and sale of stocks and bonds than the other 9,980 combined. This is how wealth and opportunities increasingly concentrate into the hands of those who have the funds to invest. We need to add an alternative goal for investment for the many of us who do not buy into max profit and max growth for the few (such as Mackey). The alternative option is adequate profit and sustainable growth for the benefit of all. We need huge amounts of capital/investors to accept this standard for investment which must become engrained within our society. This precludes most individual and institutional investors as well as philanthropists (there aren't enough of them). But there is one investor who not only will accept adequate profits and sustainable growth for the common good, but in its most selfish moment demands it because if it does not achieve adequate profit and sustainable growth for the good of all, this investor will die! And this investor does not have millions, or even billions of dollars to invest, it has trillions. Who is it? It is the community itself. The community spends $7.4 trillion dollars annually (of a total $10T GDP)on individuals purchases of goods and services. This is what a new economic model called E2M (www.e2m.org) does. It creates the infrastructure that allows the community itself to pick up the tool of capitalism , the most powerful wealth concentrating tool in the history of humanity, and use that tool as individuals and corporations have done for centuries. Using capitalism, communities can earn (not tax or take from the rich )the wealth they need to address social, economic and environmental issues while transforming our economic system and society. When the community picks up the tool of capitalism, no one else can compete. Communities have the ability to create as much money and investible wealth as they want. When they do, we will have created that huge pool of capital that can transform a system that is unsustainable into one where communities will become as economically powerful as corporations and people will become as valued as profits. By the way, if anyone from Whole Foods reads this blog, that company has the CEO who has the vision and understands the need for a new approach to capitalism (his words). It just takes one large one to be the catalyst for local, then regional, then national change. Then beyond.
01/16/2006 5:20:37 PM CST
nitin says ...
hi mr john i read your essay in the 'newsweek'. i found it very interesting...the most important aspect was that it told that there is a working style other than 'walmart's.... frankly speaking i did not know much about you or your company.. but now trying to know more... all the best for the new year regards nitin
01/18/2006 2:09:03 AM CST
David Steinman says ...
Hi John We love what you are doing here at Healthy Living and I do as author of Diet for a Poisoned Planet and Safe Shopper's Bible and a forthcoming book. How about if we do an interview with you for Healthy Living. Let us know. Warm regards David Steinman Publisher
01/22/2006 12:49:16 PM CST
Elizabeth says ...
We were so pleased to learn Whole Foods was buying wind power / green power that we have decided to do ALL our shopping at whole foods!
01/23/2006 1:37:36 AM CST
KEVIN B, SELLARSII says ...
What is destiny? Well I'd have to start right here, after reading this blog I must share how motivated I've become. As my (28) years here have brought me to a place in life to re-evaluate my point of view of co exsistance. I allowed my past to guage my emotional response to capitalism, and the "right way" of thinking. However refusing to except this as a conclusion I wrestled day and night to renew my bruised mind. Believing souly in the power of life, love has kept my hope and I'm now seeking employment with your company, and maybe the chance to conversate, with you!!! thanks, KEVIN B. SELLARSII
01/30/2006 9:32:51 AM CST
Lauren O'Neill says ...
Dear John, I just read some of your posts on libertarianism and wanted to let you know that I think you're right on the money when it comes to creating the right balance between government's interference in business and its role of protecting consumer and individual rights. If you don't subscribe already, I'd recommend the Mises daily email! On another note, I wanted to commend you on the choice to endorse wind power. I'm currently in Denmark as a Fulbright fellow looking at market mechanisms for bringing more clean energy production and end use technologies into the marketplace. I'll be going back to Washington, DC to work on it more fully in May. The Danes are some of the best in the world at both developing and promoting wind power. The one thing I'm not that big of a fan of in Europe, though, is the reliance on subsidies and government interference in the market for bringing about change. We already have such great homegrown R&D and innovation in the US. I'm convinced that we're better off without energy subsidies of any kind. All we need, I believe, is leadership in government to get rid of the subsidies and regulatory preferences for fossil fuels and private sector leadership. Businesses that have foresight in both understanding the big picture of human energy use and its environmental effects and aligning investment and strategic planning with that vision are going to make all the difference in the decades to come. Thanks for your pioneering decisions! Lauren O'Neill
02/08/2006 5:39:23 AM CST
Kevin says ...
John, I went to your website today because I wanted to send corporate a note of encouragement. Looks like Wall Street didn't like the quarterly earnings. I came across this section which details your beliefs and business ethics. I am very impressed! Please don't compromise the company and quality of experience at the stores to answer to the Street. No one is better for it! Best, Kevin
02/09/2006 3:24:34 PM CST
Gale Livengood says ...
It is important for you to think more seriously about tapping into the broader interest of your stockholders (members of your stockholders team) as they are as interested as you in investing in companies that have broader interests than just profits alone. I am very much impressed with your philosophy and core values, both of which influenced my investment in WFM. I like the way this philosophy permeates the operating structure of your company through "team management" which, I'm sure, has been responsible for much of your astounding growth. Keep up the good work. Shareholders, and I'm a new one, have a collective intellect that can be harnessed to the ongoing good of the company. Include your shareholders in the symbiosis! I'm interested in helping to develop this greater involvement.
02/18/2006 3:12:17 PM CST

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