This weekend my folks traveled to Bucknell in honor of Parent’s Weekend. Of course they came with bags and bags of my favorite treats from home. This included a box of my guilty pleasure; Whole Food’s organic flax seed and apricot crackers.
Whole foods has quite the impressive corporate governance page online.
There are several links to organizational documents, charters, policies, and processes that the company has revised in order to create value for shareholders and stakeholders. These policies have held solid support, and Whole Foods is considered as one of the most ethically sound companies today. The underpinnings of the company culture include ensuring quality standards, organic farming, seafood sustainability, standards for animal welfare, caring for communities, and owing a responsibility to all people involved. This responsibility includes producers in developing countries, shoppers, and anyone involved in the corporate structure. Bruce Watson, a writer for Daily Finance, highlights the good nature of the company, “And then there’s the way that the company treats its workers. Whole Foods’ employees are paid well above the market average, have full health coverage, and are reimbursed for their gym memberships. The company offers same-sex partner benefits, allows telecommuting for many of its workers, and has a strict nondiscrimination policy. In short, it’s everything that a good liberal could want in a supermarket.”
These commitments, however, have faced controversy in the past. One extremely important thing to consider are the personal values that organic shoppers hold dear to their hearts. As Watson highlighted earlier, many Whole Foods consumers are of the earthy, liberal, hippy-esque crowd. This gives meaning to the alienation shoppers felt when CEO John Mackey advised readers of the Wall Street Journal of his strong opinion against Obama’s health care plans. This supplemented the fact that Mackey had previously come forward as very anti-union. Thus, the battle of libertarian vs. liberalism took a manager vs. stakeholder form.
Personally, I believe that there is a very apparent disconnect. Yes, the CEO may hold political opinions that differ greatly from those who shop at Whole Foods. However, as a company, Whole Foods does not lean left or right. Instead, it leans towards health consciousness and food safety. I think everyone is entitled to an opinion, and overall there is some overlap, I agree with Watson’s concluding line, “If Whole Foods’ customers are really liberal, then they will, perhaps, remember that true liberalism endorses the free flow of information, ideas, and perspectives. While they may not agree with Mackey’s statements, their eagerness to censor him has effectively transformed righteous anger into bald-faced hypocrisy and bad business into bad politics. Even if Mackey isn’t better than that, his customers certainly should be.”
Today, people hold many different identities. Just because someone shops at Whole Foods doesn’t mean that they are liberal. People have different tastes, interests, hobbies and political affiliations. I guess we are kind of like the multi-ingredient cracker that I have grown to love.