Whole Foods, Good Ethics


Whole Foods has been touted as of one of the most ethical companies for a few  years now.  I enjoy grocery shopping there despite the high prices because, in the absence of a convenient farmers market, I like to know I’m supporting local industry.  Also, its store-made prepared foods are like what I would make myself and not loaded with preservatives and other chemicals.  Its commitment to organic and locally grown foods has made it popular with health and environmentally conscious consumers.  Over 70% of its employees are full-time and eligible for health benefits. Part-time employees can also be eligible after a certain amount of time worked.  Its starting pay rates are well above the average for grocery retailers and the company has a stringent, third-party labeling system for its food called the Eco-Scale. This scale lets consumers know the degree to which a product meets Whole Foods’ standards in areas like animal testing, environmental-friendliness, resource usage in production etc.  It goes beyond labeling requirements for foods that are organic, genetically modified, and produced in non-conventional ways.  The company also limits its the pay of its executives to 19 times that of the average full time salary at the firm. The CEO currently receives a salary of $1 per year.  Additionally, 5% of profits are donated to charity each year and the company touts itself as putting its stakeholders before anything else.

For my paper 2, I’d like to look at the practices of this company and how its commitment to sustainability has helped make it successful.  Also, while there is many positive things about the company, it would be interesting to see if the claims it makes about its practices are 100% true and not misleading. Most of what I read about the company was in a smattering of news articles but this report from the Daniels Fund Ethics Institute of the University of New Mexico confirmed all the details and added more.

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4 responses to “Whole Foods, Good Ethics

  1. As someone who also chose to write about the quality of the food we eat, I am really happy that you are discussing Whole Foods. At home, my family does all grocery shopping at Whole Foods because of the quality of their ingredients and their reputation as a whole. For some reason, when I am shopping there, I look at the effect they have had on the community (including paying to rebuild an entire i95 exit ramp so that their new location was safer for customers) and disregard the higher prices as well.

  2. I absolutely love Whole Foods. In addition to selling quality products, the various stores actually care about their customers. I had the opportunity to research Whole Foods during my internship this summer and learned a few interesting things. Last year the chain promoted Ramadan to appeal to its Muslim customers, something its competitors definitely would not do. Although the brand had a slight PR misstep during this promotion, the story is something you may want to look into if you are going to write about Whole Foods’ good ethics.

    http://newsfeed.time.com/2011/08/11/whole-foods-draws-controversy-over-ramadan-promotion/

  3. Great choice for paper 2. The Whole Foods we visited abroad in London last semester was extremely dedicated to its customers and “fitting-in” with the community. British culture (especially eating habits) can seem very different from those we have here in the USA and I found it interesting that the company accounted for this with smaller sized portions.

  4. I think you will see much of what you found holds up. It is a very studied and observed company. The CEO is also somewhat brash and outspoken, so he attracts media attention.

    Are they privately held of publicly-traded?

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