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Fast Company has a long piece about Whole Foods CEO John Mackey and his “gospel” of Conscious Capitalism.

An excerpt:

"’You see, Conscious Capitalism is a fairly new idea, but it's going to have a huge impact,’ he begins, describing the philosophy he developed as he built his tiny natural-foods store into an $8 billion retail beast. ‘I do believe it will become the dominant paradigm of business in the 21st century.’ Conscious Capitalism, Mackey insists, moves corporations to refocus on purpose instead of profit. In theory, it underscores the importance of all of a company's interdependent ‘stakeholders’: employees, customers, shareholders, suppliers, community, and the environment. When all of those constituencies' interests are factored into the company's decisions and aligned, his thinking goes, all -- including, not incidentally, the bottom line -- will flourish.”

Mackey tells Fast Company: “Businesses that are more conscious of making a positive difference in the world make the world a better place from just being there. That all results in higher profit and higher return on capital. There are no losers.”

While Mackey concedes that he is a long way from the “huge impact” that he sees his idea having, he takes some personal satisfaction in the journey. "If I get run over by a truck later today, I will have already in my life made a difference in helping many people," he says. "Customers are better off because millions of people are eating in a way they never would have had we never existed. Our team members are better off because we've created a company that's a great place to work. Our suppliers have flourished along with Whole Foods and have made a lot of money from their association with us. And our investors have made a ton of money."

However, Fast Company suggests that Whole Foods can be a study in compromise:

“In Mackey's eyes, Whole Foods itself pursues both the good and the heroic. And the nation's largest seller of natural and organic foods does boast many noble practices: Nonexecutive employees hold 96% of the company's stock options; 5% of the company's after-tax profits are given to charity every year; no executive can make more than 19 times the employee average ... In fact, Whole Foods' own astronomical growth -- virtually doubling in size every four years through aggressive acquisitions of 19 of its competitors -- has entailed social and environmental trade-offs. Most of its produce is purchased from agribusiness giants instead of local producers, often flown in from other continents. Its 40,000-square-foot stores -- all of which are nonunion, thanks in part to Mackey's personal efforts -- are the Hummers of retail. Last year, Ceres, a green-investment watchdog, ranked the chain's environmental record among the lowest of all corporations. As Michael Pollan explains in The Omnivore's Dilemma, Mackey's paradox is similar to Wal-Mart's: In order to heal the planet without sacrificing profit, he'll need to continue to tax it with more, still-bigger stores.”
KC's View:
I’m always a little suspicious of gospels (and I know this statement is going to get me in trouble with a segment of the MNB community), but never more so then when applied to business. Not that Mackey’s approach - which is shared by some remarkable companies - is to be scoffed at. I believe in working for the greater good, and that business conducted solely for profit can be an empty exercise.

But gospel? That seems a little pretentious to me.