75 Comments

Comments

Joel Verdon says ...
Wow - I am disappointed as a Whole Foods Team Member that I neglected to visit this section of "our" website because the conversation is - well - stimulating! Milton and John are, indeed, saying the same thing except that Milton Friedman prefers not to use the term 'social responsibility.' Milton believes businesses like Whole Foods operate as his model dictates - for profit only - and that our social responsibility is just a play on words. Call it what you wish, but John makes his point by making that social responsibility part of the Core Values and Mission of WFM (Whole Foods Market)...and, by making it a verbal agreement for his/our business, he takes Milton's business model to the next level. On a personal note - I believe in the "invisible hand" - as do most of us on this blog - and I sometimes get overly enthused at how miraculously economic models can change just by going to work everyday in support of a product-customer base-economic model that I LIKE! When I first shopped for organics 26 years ago I was gravely disappointed by the lack of choices, the costs, and the overall product. Who could have forseen the impact that a small group of folks in Austin, in 1980, would have on WORLDWIDE agriculture a quarter century later!? What could be better than being a part of that? Wow! And to tell the economic truth, Whole Foods will probably not always be the "end all" of natural/organics - we have set the bar and we are just now starting to see the lean-face of competition...but thanks to John Mackey, et. al. we face them on very firm footing. I'd love to keep writing, but I have got to get to work - Joel
02/28/2006 7:47:39 PM CST
Jim McClure says ...
The thing that most people do is to misquote Friedman. Most people misinterpret him as saying that the social responsibility of business is to increase profits, period. Friedman made several key caveats: 1) profit seeking must be conducted in "open competition" with other firms (this rules out interfirm price fixing arrangements; 2) profit seeking must be within the "rules of the game" (that is according to the rule of law); 3) profit seeking must be conducted without "deception" or "fraud".
03/21/2006 2:31:57 PM CST
Luap says ...
We have been waiting, waiting, waiting for the right client to stand up and embrace our misison for healing this world with education, artistry, compassion, sustainability, grace and love. Food from our Earth Mother to Us. Each thing has All within in it, a piece of paper, in a Whole Foods box, is the cloud, the rain, the earth, the people who harvested, cut, processed, and on and on and on. We know this. We are ready. Be this. Smile. Teach. Love.
03/22/2006 4:07:27 PM CST
cheryl white says ...
Dear John: I really liked your analogy with your wife to describe the social responsibility of a business in a community. In fact, I believe, that if we are passionate about whatever it is that we do and focus on the right behaviors or things (such as you mentioned:putting customers,employees, suppliers, etc.first) then profits follow. Your enterprise is a good example of how doing the right things leads to the right kind of results. I work for a global human resource consulting firm, and I must confess I read your blog because I've been trying to secure an introductory appointment with the right person in your organization. However, one of our missions or goals is to get organizations' to understand that investing in people will lead them to profits, not ignoring people for the sake of profits. Albeit, we are talking about two different things, I think our values are similiar in doing the right kinds of things. I enjoyed reading your blog. And look forward to reading more of your thoughts. Sincerely, Cheryl White
03/22/2006 4:07:48 PM CST
Tom Cobb says ...
Jim McClure says that Friedman is frequently misquoted, as people disregard the caveats Friedman places upon his contention that businesses should seek only profits. This is not correct. Friedman claims a belief in the rule of law, but argues against the validity of nearly every law brought into being for the purpose of containg corporate privilege. In fact, the very example McClure gives - interfirm price-fixing arrangements - is a "rule of law" Friedman argues against in "Free To Choose". See the chapter titled the "Tyranny of Controls." It is disingenuous to claim a belief in the "rule of law", and then oppose its use in virtually all cases.
03/25/2006 10:25:17 PM CST
Emilio Ferrero says ...
Dear John: Although I read your article several months after it was published, I wanted to express my admiration for what Whole Foods stands for, which clearly reflects your own personal views. For the past few months I have been working on, learning about, and hopefully helping to shape, Corporate Social Responsibilty in Latin America. I strongly believe that the recent resurgence of socialism in the region, especially in those radical cases where anti-capitalism and anti-americanism were two of the flags used by its leaders is, in part, a response to Mr. Friedman's view regarding the main responsibility of private companies. Mr. Friedman statement about your policy to distribute 5% of WF profits to charitable institutions, i.e., to society,: "But what reason is there to suppose that the stream of profit distributed in this way would do more good for society than investing that stream of profit in the enterprise itself or paying it out as dividends and letting the stockholders dispose of it?" falls on its face when it comes to multinational corporations doing business abroad. Shareholders are so far away -and even so far apart- from the rest of the stakeholders that the only way the companies can effectively excercise their social responsiblity is by assuming it directly. If more of the multinational corporations presently doing business in our countries for the past 30 years had had your view, we might be living in a different social scenario...
04/23/2006 10:50:59 AM CDT
mike anderson says ...
John, Many thanks to you and your staff for the effort you make to give back to the communities and world you serve. 5% of profits is not the measure, it is the intent behind your gift of philanthropy. I belive it to be pure and good, and in the best interest of my family and my neighbor. As a stakeholder it is my pleasere to share and give of my self [profits] because of love. Mike Anderson SolarAmp.com
04/25/2006 9:38:14 AM CDT
Dr Tom Laga says ...
Having shopped at the Whole Foods market in West Hartford, CT yesterday, my wife & I were curious about the WF's organization. So today, I visited www.wholefoods.com. Starting at 3:05 pm, I finished at 5:25 pm... reading everything including the 14 pages of CEO John Mackey's blog re the social responsibility of business. Being a Holistic Health counselor [Nutrition, Fitness, Stresscare] and Dr Laga Wellness Seminars presenter here in CT for many years, I can state that I have seldom been so impressed as I was by JM's philosophy. The decline [loss?] of the middle class and the difference between the haves and have-nots has bothered me for years. I always wondered why all of us couldn't share and therefore implement JM's philosophy articulated so effectively in conversational, American English. I'd LOVE to write or edit or speak or be a trainer for this company! Peace to JM's spirit. Holisitically, Dr Tom Laga, newsletter editor for the Connecticut Holistic Health Association.
04/26/2006 5:07:18 PM CDT
Alysha Collins says ...
Mr. Mackey' I just saw your 60 minutes interview' I applaud your compassion for animals. I have the same compassion and am an animal lover. My concern is your apparent lack of compassion or understanding for people who are poor. Those of us who are disabled or on Social Security disibility..no one gets more than 5 or 6 hundred dollars on this program...or those who have otherwise hit hard times' can no more shop in your store than hang out in beverly hills for a day. You said for the poor it's about choices. No Mr Mackey I don't think so. We don't have the choice to shop at your store. All the money we get in a month would be used up in a couple of shopping trips.
06/04/2006 9:11:46 PM CDT
Ariel says ...
Hi John, I just saw you on 60 minutes, thank you for being yourself and explaining that just because Whole Foods is successful doesn't mean it can't have the core compassion for animals and the environment that it had when it began. I have been a customer for at least 6 years now, and am thrilled that you are expanding. Eventually the cost of organic will go down if we can get the rest of the US to buy fully organic. cheers, Ariel
06/04/2006 9:48:28 PM CDT
Jane says ...
Dear Mr. Mackey, The social/corporate connection runs both ways, and isn't merely due to a company reaching out to customers or community asking for an embrace, it also moves from the community inward. My neighbors and I are already emotionally invested in your company's well-being – not as stockholders but as stakeholders – and the store's not even built yet. The steel framing for the roof of your new store in University Heights, Ohio, near Cleveland, went up this week, its v-form suggestive of skeleton wings – strong, but light enough to soar. Quite appropriate, considering the tons of expectations we have placed on our new Whole Foods Market. The community hopes that it will raise the fortunes of the surrounding inner-ring areas. I hope that your whole-earth, green philosophy spreads beyond the front doors and helps raise the consciousness of the community. I commend you for choosing to locate your store in an inner-ring suburb and be part of a revitalization effort, rather than take the easy route and build on a greenfield farther out in the exurbs. Your store can improve not only people's diets and lifestyles, it's also changing this community's vision of itself. As the ward councilwoman representing the residents and businesses in the city across the street (literally, the other side of Cedar Road, which lies in the City of South Euclid,) I'm a little surprised at the way everyone here points to the "Coming Soon" sign as if the gods were about to descend and show us how to make fire. Don't get me wrong. I'm thrilled that you're coming, and I'll be one of the first through the door, carrying my well-worn Whole Foods canvas bags, bought on out-of-town shopping trips. (Nice ergonomic touch, by the way, the long shoulder strap.) Your store will be an important asset as we redevelop our own side of the tired old shopping strip into housing, retail, restaurants and greenspace (also "coming soon".) It will also set an example for other developments, assuming your green building elements are used in this store. It's about more than food and profits to us. It's about doing well by doing good. So...thanks for coming to town.
06/09/2006 4:19:36 PM CDT
Ron Nutz says ...
John, please do not let Wal Mart destroy the Organic industry by jumping in on it...Wal Mart must learn that protection of the single or small coop of farmers is vital to the industry. I am really concerned that Wal Mart will source "Organic" product overseas that may be in question as demand will exceed supply. We have to continue to consume in season....I am impressed with your West Vancouver , Canada location...Keep the ball rolling....Ron
06/20/2006 8:46:05 AM CDT
CHARLES MUKUKA says ...
As a firm believer in what John preaches, i finally joined WFM and am enjoying every bit of it. As a business scholar, i find myself getting convinced everyday that this man is who he is because of a deeper convinction in his life. In short John deserves a nobel peace prize for supporting this noble call and your name is worthy submitting for such considerations.
06/29/2006 7:20:23 PM CDT
Scott Piro says ...
Dear Mr. Mackey: Whole Foods continues to be a leader in taking actions that bring industry and the populace closer to living more sustainable lifestyles. The company philosophy on your website (“Vision of a Sustainable Future”) cites examples like your dedication to organic produce and poultry, the “green building” of your corporate headquarters and financial support of environmental organizations. These actions are highly laudable and needed. I challenge you to take the bold, first step in terms of your policy regarding consumers and reusable shopping bags. Your current nickel-per-bag program is already very progressive. However, instead of offering customers a financial incentive to use their own canvas bags to carry their groceries, the time has come to begin penalizing them for not doing so. This model has already become prevalent throughout supermarket chains in Europe, the U.K. and Canada. For example the German-headquartered Aldi chain — which boasts stores across the United States – asks customers to pay for their bags. Governments in Australia, South Africa and Ireland have even begun imposing taxes on the flimsy plastic bags typically used in supermarkets. Let’s not wait for our government to take action. Other U.S. chains are reluctant to adopt this change, for fear it would put them at a competitive disadvantage. However, Whole Foods, whose image is so strongly associated with organics and sustainability, has such a loyal customer base that a campaign with a careful launch could serve to deepen customers’ bonds for the store. Whole Foods would design and begin selling canvas (or similarly reusable, durable bags) with their logo on it. The sale of the bags would be a source of income for the company, and the bags would double as billboards for Whole Foods, as customers began using them – for groceries and other uses. Customers who purchase and use the Whole Foods-designed bags (or other reusable bags of their own) would continue to save a nickel-per-bag, as your current program warrants. However, customers, who require plastic or paper bags would pay an additional five cents, which Whole Foods could donate to an environmental organization or keep as income. Whole Foods would see a savings in its cost for materials, because as more customers switch to reusable bags, fewer plastic/paper ones would need to be purchased. In addition, because it would be an unprecedented action in this country and viewed by some as both assertive and carrying some risk, it would result in a huge corporate story for you in the trade and mainstream press – yielding heavy publicity for Whole Foods. Your niche has become more competitive the last few years, and this action would reinforce your leadership status and insure your continued domination. Most importantly it is the right thing to do. Plastic bags are working their way up the food chain in our oceans. Paper bags are a factor in the decimation of our forests. In real terms the institution of a program like this would do tremendous good for the environment (as well as for Whole Foods!) And if other firms eventually copy it – well, then Whole Foods will have demonstrated what true leadership is. Please begin work on a program like this NOW so that its implementation can begin ASAP. Sincerely, Scott Piro
07/03/2006 9:28:17 AM CDT
Alena says ...
I will continue to visit enjoyed the reading thanks
08/27/2006 2:04:59 PM CDT
john beck says ...
I strongly believe that the recent resurgence of socialism in the region, especially in those radical cases where anti-capitalism and anti-americanism were two of the flags used by its leaders.
08/29/2006 1:38:42 AM CDT
Susan Cergol says ...
Mr. Mackey, as a marketing professional currently developing a corporate social responsibility program for a regional supermarket company in the Middle East, I am delighted to have found this post. I wholeheartedly agreee with your understanding of how to create social value while generating profits. I also applaud your courage and willingness to engage your stakeholders in a blog conversation. It's a step too few corporate leaders are willing to take just yet.
09/02/2006 6:48:59 AM CDT
Alex Bäcker says ...
Contrary to Roger Collins, President of Afternic, (thanks Roger for pointing me to the debate), I believe John Mackey's argument is the winning one in this debate. But I don't think Mackey makes an entirely compelling case for his argument, so I will pitch in to try to help. Mackey claims that corporations following his multi-stakeholder-pleasing model will eventually prevail in the economic landscape by winning the competitive test of the marketplace. He may well be right. But if he is, that will only prove Mr. Friedman right, who claimed that Mr. Mackey's model and his own profit-maximizing one are equivalent, for surely a model which prevails in the economic landscape maximizes long-term profits. Mackey points out that if they truly are equivalent, his own description has more marketing appeal. But I believe that Mackey's model is more than just marketing and packaging. If we are to look for meaningful differences between the models, we need to look for cases in which a corporation finds a way to maximize value for its multiple stakeholders (Mackey describes his as customers, team members (employees), investors, vendors, communities, and the environment) *without* maximizing profits. Consider, for example, a corporation which systematically spends (reinvests) would-be-profits across its various stakeholders in such a way as to be left with zero profits every month. This corporation could grow and become very valuable, providing a return on investment for its shareholders. And yet it may well become less valuable for its shareholders (investors is the term used in the above-mentioned debate, but only some of the shareholders of a corporations are investors; shareholders typically include entrepreneurs and employees as well) than a sister company that does everything else equal except it does not distribute (as much of) its profits to non-shareholder stakeholders. For some of the wealth created by the first corporation would have gone to customers, vendors, communities, and the environment. And yet, I would claim, nothing is to say that the profit-maximizing corporation is either more socially responsible or better in any other way. For clearly the value created for non-shareholder stakeholders has non-zero value --even Friedman agrees with this when he says Whole Foods' important contribution to society is to enhance the pleasure of shopping for food. In particular, and just to make the fallacy of profit as the sole measure of corporate success more clear, imagine a case where corporation A systematically makes $1B of profits a year in addition to disbursing $10B a year in value to other stakeholders (customers, employees, community, vendors, environment), while corporation B makes $1.1B in profits a year and generates only $0.1B in value to other stakeholders. All but the most rabid profit-maximizer would concede that it would be fair to call corporation A the more successful, certainly when measured by society (which is, after all, the judge that Friedman was after when he spoke of "social responsibility"). Friedman might counter that even more successful would be a corporation C that kept all $11B as profits, for individual shareholders to distribute as each sees fit. But there are at least two fallacies with this: First, that Friedman cites no evidence that individual shareholders are more competent in distributing wealth than corporations are --on the contrary, he mentions that in the real world we live in (a world that is inevitably more interesting to write about than theoretical constructs), tax laws make corporations more efficient at this task (assuming the citation of Adam Smith made by Friedman, "I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good", holds true of governments, who collect taxes). Second, corporation C may not exist. For the very reason that propels corporation A to generate more value than corporation B might be the goodwill generated by its value-sharing policies among the various constituencies whose cooperation generates the value to begin with. Conversely, a corporation which generates massive profits by selling and dropping hydrogen bombs for the wealthiest individuals on Earth to experience the power that money can buy is surely not a model of socially responsible business. Capitalism is to me the most complex and fascinating system known to man. Far more complex than a single brain, or that the behavior of distant stars. But what makes the system so powerful is not a dictum that all agents must uniformly seek to maximize profits, but rather the fact that each agent in the market is free to act according to his/her own desires. When commanding all business to follow the same rule and optimize for the same metric, Friedman committed the very crime he so faults socialist regimes with: forgetting the power of free markets. Alex Bäcker, Ph.D. Altadena, California
10/08/2006 12:35:58 AM CDT
Sonia Cruz says ...
Social responsibility as nonsense? ABSURD! God created a social structure intended to equip people to act responsibility toward developing that structure into a rich and sustainable development. If we all contributed responsibly to our society, none would be poor. But to consider the debate at hand related to business, I agree with Mackey in terms of responsibility. I do not, however, wish to relate social responsibility to creating value, and most certainly do not consider it a cloak for those exercising the value of responsibility in their business. Many, yes many, businesses have tainted the public view of responsible business practices because of their use of social responsibility as a cloak. However, we do reap what we sow, and while some may even see that view as a cloak for the personal bottom line, it is evident that contributing to one's community and environment establishes relationships beyond a networking perspective. It is conceivable that a company may desire to contribute to the community and the environment for the simple sake of doing so. Building relationships is a key element of leadership, and social responsibility builds relationships - regardless of the bottom line.
04/30/2007 2:36:26 AM CDT
Michael Krepelka says ...
I definitely agree with John Mackey. Customers, employees, shareholders and vendors all have to be the focus of the business. If all the time and energy is driven by profit and
05/14/2007 6:03:35 AM CDT
gkblair says ...
i am a former employee of WFM as well. We had a hand in the success of this business. We made history every day. It was a pleasure to be a part of that organization the mighty white and green. It also exposed us to the inner workings of the business first hand and what it entails to be successful, as long as you were deadly serious. We could also count on John Mackey to come down to each store and break off gems of knowlege and motivate us personally. I spent 10 years with that organization and was a TMAG as well. WFM is REAL and to this day they still enjoy crowded parking lots and folks knocking on the door well after they are closed
05/14/2007 1:45:23 PM CDT
eric says ...
awesome
02/12/2010 10:53:49 AM CST
Denise Chilcote says ...
Thank you for being a man of integrity and for giving us a wonderful healthy grocery store! Even though we have to travel a distance to Birmingham to get to your store, it's worth every single mile! I would love to eventually have a Whole Foods in or near our town of Prattville, Alabama. Our city is booming and the people here are health oriented, educated and would love to have a great grocery store like Whole Foods in our backyard! Keep up the great work sir!
03/26/2010 3:30:36 PM CDT
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10/29/2010 1:08:49 AM CDT
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01/19/2011 6:03:42 PM CST

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