Ten Points About Conscious Capitalism

MARCH 26, 2010

On March 26, 2010, John Mackey, chief executive officer of Whole Foods Market, presented “Conscious Capitalism,” which contained the following excerpts:

  • Great companies have great purposes. The companies you probably love have a great purpose: pursuing the good, service to others, improving the health, education, welfare and quality of life for people.
  • Profits are best created when they are not the primary reason for your company’s existence. They are the results of having a deeper business purpose:  creating great products and services that benefit others, creating great customer satisfaction, creating work places where people flourish, and recognizing the responsibilities that you have toward the community and environment.
  • We need to think about business in terms of conscious leadership: to fulfill the deepest purpose of the organization while creating value for the entire interdependent business system and its stakeholders, including the customers, employees, suppliers, investors, the community and the environment.
  • In my experience in business, if you look for tradeoffs—where one party gains and the other loses— you will find them. But if you think in terms of synergies, you will find them as well. Without throwing away analytical skills, we must develop the mindset to think creatively so that all stakeholders benefit.
  • If you put the customer first, you will probably be successful because most businesses don’t do it. They begin to put the investors or the convenience of the employees first.  At Whole Foods, we teach that there is no more important stakeholder than the customer.
  • Although we have a long way to go to lift everyone out of poverty, great progress has been made, and capitalism had done this. Prosperity is created by business — not government, not bureaucrats, not rules, not economists. But business does a bad job of communicating this and does not get the credit it deserves.
  • You can talk about purpose and stakeholders, but unless you create a culture that reinforces it, you won’t be able to sustain it.
  • In conscious business, social responsibility is not grafted onto a traditional business structure; it is the very essence of why the business exists. I want to see traditional business evolve from profit-focused to purpose-focused, from only shareholders winning to all stakeholders winning, from thinking short term to long term, from zero-sum to win-win-win strategies, from conflicts of interest to harmony of interests.
  • We need a new way of thinking about business for the 21st century. We need to support the key principles that underlie any free economic system: property rights, freedom of contract, freedom to trade, and the rule of law.
  • At Whole Foods, we are launching a major initiative to address obesity. Some 67 percent of Americans are overweight and 35 percent are obese, and it is going to bankrupt our nation. We are heading toward massive amounts of disease. The solution is to eat primarily plant-based foods, not processed foods and sugar. To lose weight, the simplest solution is to increase your consumption of vegetables.

John Mackey serves as CEO of Whole Foods Market, a retail grocery that sells natural and organic food in more than 270 stores in the United States and United Kingdom. Whole Foods, which Mackey co-founded in Austin, Texas in 1980, is a $6 billion Fortune 500 company and one of the top 20 supermarket companies in America.
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