Sustainability and Our Future

Whole Foods Market's vision of a sustainable future means our children and grandchildren will be living in a world that values human creativity, diversity, and individual choice. Businesses will harness human and material resources without devaluing the integrity of the individual or the planet's ecosystems. Companies, governments, and institutions will be held accountable for their actions. People will better understand that all actions have repercussions and that planning and foresight coupled with hard work and flexibility can overcome almost any problem encountered. It will be a world that values education and a free exchange of ideas by an informed citizenry; where people are encouraged to discover, nurture, and share their life's passions.

At Whole Foods Market, we are starting to implement this new vision of the future by changing the way we think about the relationships between our food supply, the environment, and our bodies.

Holistic Thinking in a Conventional World

How does our vision become reality? First we dedicate ourselves to the actions that will make our vision flow naturally from our daily work. In this respect, we have adopted a philosophy that is mission-driven; symbolized by our Whole Foods-Whole People-Whole Planet logo that exemplifies our commitment to our principles. Our mission is to offer the highest quality, least processed, most flavorful and naturally preserved foods. We are dedicated to creating a respectful workplace where people are treated fairly and are highly motivated to succeed. And, we believe companies, like individuals, must assume their share of responsibility as tenants of the Earth.

Second, we apply our dedication within the framework we are given. In our case, we are a grocery store, and in that context we act on our vision of the future by working within the constraints of what a grocery store can do. WFM facilitates a more sustainable future by applying our vision to how we do business, and then we make sure that those changes are implemented in all aspects of our company.

Third, we lead by example. We believe that the movement to a sustainable future is necessary and inevitable. However, the mindset of people and their institutions are hard to change, and when they do change it is usually in an incremental and uneven pattern. So, the question remains, when people are ready to change will they have examples available that can make the change easier or will they have to reinvent the wheel to create the changes they want? As a participant in the movement to a sustainable world, WFM is leading by example within the context that we know best: organic food and natural products, and sustainable and ethical business practices.

Holistic Actions for a Sustainable World

WFM has a vision of the future and a comprehensive strategy to implement that vision. We are proud of our efforts in making concrete, long-term changes to the business as usual approach to food, health, and the environment. Below are examples of how we lead the movement to sustainability, not just in our advocacy of organic food, but in all aspects of our relationship with the social, business, and environmental communities.

Healthy Foods and Healthy Products Begin at the Source

We have been advocates and supporters of organic agriculture throughout the last 20 years. In the early days when the organic network was young and fairly disorganized, making it difficult to stock as much organic produce as we had hoped to, we originally set up our own produce distribution company in California. There we developed relationships with organic farmers, educating each other about the variety of organic produce we could feasibly make available. As time went on, we developed packaging, storage, and shipping procedures that insured the quality of our organic products from the farms to our stores.

We are advocates and supporters of naturally raised meat and poultry. In addition to telling consumers our concerns about added hormones and antibiotics, we work with ranchers and producers to develop hormone and antibiotic-free alternatives for our customers to buy.

We work tirelessly, advocating fewer and safer pesticides in non-organic foods, in educating our customers about the value of foods produced without harmful or questionable food additives, and we have worked with manufacturers to supply our stores with foods that meet our strict quality standards.

We educate our customers about the importance of food safety measures and techniques, including our concerns about irradiation, food borne illnesses, food handling, and material safety.

Sustainability Beyond Organic Food

We received the first "Green Building" award in Austin, Texas in 1998 for the expansion and renovation of our corporate headquarters. Sustainable material specifications combined with conscientious construction methods resulted in a healthy, durable facility. Because of the 42% waste reduction, we were profiled by the EPA as a construction waste reduction and recycling record-setter.

We encourage the use of less toxic cleaning products, educating our customers about the positive impact that can be made in air and water quality by using these alternative products.

We promote the purchase of bulk food and other products utilizing reduced or reusable packaging, as well as encouraging shoppers to reduce waste through our "nickel per bag" rebate program.

We financially support environmental organizations, helping them to do their work towards a more sustainable planet.

Respect for All Forms of Life

We actively educate our customers about the senseless killing of dolphins in the pursuit of tuna and work to encourage the tuna canneries to buy only from fishermen who utilize fishing methods that are designed to eliminate the collateral killing of dolphin populations.

We are appalled with the cruelty of traditionally raised veal and, in addition to refusing to sell it, we work with ranchers to develop and support humane methods of meat and poultry production.

We educate our customers about the cruelty of animal testing of body-care products, helping to influence the marketplace by taking a clear stance that those types of products will not be tolerated.

Education and Public Participation

WFM uses a two-pronged approach to consumer education and the support for public participation in creating a sustainable future. Our TAKE ACTION CENTERS, located in every store, offer customers a wide variety of information on local, regional, national, and international issues of concern. Customers not only learn about important issues like genetic engineering, organic foods, pesticides, and sustainable agriculture, but we offer them the means to affect change by keeping them updated on new legislation and the tools they need to effectively participate in shaping those issues.

Wholefoodsmarket.com provides the second prong of our education and public participation strategy. Our website provides WFM customers with an in depth investigation into the issues that are important to the organic and natural products buying community. We post detailed information about WFM as a business AND as a progressive force in changing how the human food supply intersects with our environment, our bodies, our work, and our lifestyles.

Regulation, Enforcement and Accountability

In addition to being the leading retailer of organic foods, we've helped formulate the National Organic Standards through our participation as the sole retail representative on the National Organic Standards Board. This hands-on approach allows our vision of a sustainable future to be represented in the definition, construction, and enforcement of sustainable legislation and regulation. Our desire for clear and straightforward answers and regulatory transparency directly assists individuals and groups seeking accountability from their elected and non-elected officials on issues directly related to organics and sustainability.

In conjunction to working with farmers on alternatives and educating our consumers about the harmful effects of some pesticides, we are the only retailer that participated in the joint EPA/USDA Tolerance Reassessment Advisory Committee. The task of this multi-stakeholder advisory board was to advise those agencies how they should fairly reassess all the pesticides that had previously been approved, taking into consideration their effect on the delicate immune systems of infants and children, as well as cumulative effects of their use.

Since 1992, long before it became a hot issue, we actively advocated for mandatory labeling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients. At the heart of this is our belief that consumers have the right to choose their food based on the knowledge of what is in it and how it is produced. We are also the only retailer on the recently appointed USDA Advisory Committee on Agricultural Biotechnology, another multi-stakeholder group organized to examine the many complex issues related to agricultural biotechnology.

An Invitation to Join Our Vision

We believe that our vision of the future is shared by many other people, organizations, campaigns, and institutions around the world. We acknowledge that there are many ways to implement that vision. We welcome everyone in joining us in making concrete, lasting changes to our world through education, participation, and civility.

Our 2012 Green Mission Report

Our 2012 Green Mission Report is our first effort to pull together all of the programs, products and practices as viewed through the lens of sustainability. Going forward, we look forward to sharing more of our goals and accomplishments on a yearly basis. Download the 2012 Green Mission Report (1.8MB PDF).