Whole Foods Market is a sustainable supermarket chain that was founded on September 20th, 1980. For years they have been bringing fresh and organic foods to people’s tables all across the U.S., along with Canada and the UK. The company prides itself on taking great strides towards developing a sustainable future and supplying foods that are healthy and nurturing to the body. This article will be highlighting their business model where they created a lasting relationship with organic farmers and also educate the general public on safer and more holistic foods and practices. In this way they have achieved the sustainable development goals of good health and well-being, quality education, and responsible consumption and production.
Loyola Marymount University
Whole Foods Market’s innovative business model stems from their mission, which is “to offer the highest quality, least processed, most flavorful and naturally preserved foods.” They believe that companies have a responsibility to be mindful of their impact on the Earth. Whole Foods Market wants to lead by example into a more sustainable future by providing organic food and conducting ethical business practices.
To take actions towards this mission, one of the steps Whole Foods Market has taken is to develop good relationships with organic farmers over the past 20 years. Towards the beginning it was difficult to stock organic produce, so they developed their own produce distribution company where they then began developing relations with these farmers. They were able to develop more efficient procedures over time to more readily get these organic products into their stores. In this way they are fulfilling the sustainable development goal of responsible consumption and production. On top of organic produce, Whole Foods Market also advocates for meat and poultry that has been raised naturally without added hormones and antibiotics, which ties in with the sustainable development goal of good health and well-being. They also took additional steps to educate customers on the valuable nature of food without harmful food additives, along with food safety measures and techniques on how to handle food without becoming ill.
Education and public participation is a huge part of how Whole Foods Market makes steps towards their mission, which fulfills the quality education sustainable development goal. In each store they have a TAKE ACTION CENTER, where consumers can find information on different issues of concern in the world currently, and are given further information on how to participate in fixing those issues. Their website is also a valuable tool for their customers, where they are provided with an investigation into issues important in the organic buying community. Also posted is information about their business as a progressive force in changing how food supply affects the environment and people’s lifestyles.
The story and inspiration behind Whole Foods Market and its organic mantra originates from what the customers wanted years ago. Many consumers longed for fresh handpicked produce that was grown naturally by local farmers and was not affiliated with any sort of unequal labor. The idea behind this unique grocery store was to change the way people thought about food and its within the society. The idea of prepackaged fruits and vegetables was not in the picture as the founder, John Mackey, wanted to diminish any commercial pesticides that were found in industrialized farms. The supermarket was designed as a way to cultivate the sense of authenticity that they strived for while promoting sustainable and fairly harvested food in addition to ethically sourced meat and poultry. This also pushes and motivates employees to take on the same practices in their daily lives. Joseph Sloan, a Whole Foods Market store manager claimed that it “helped me mature and grow up because it’s not an easy job. But, it also motivated me to work hard everyday.” Whole Foods Market also continues to partner up with multiple local organizations that go hand in hand with their organic green mission statement. For that reason, Sloan mentioned that Whole Foods Market often partners up with a local flower vendor called Marcell’s. There is a very respectful and mutual agreement between the two companies. They also both maintain a strong level of trust, where there might be days Whole Foods Market may be running low on their flower supply, Marcell’s would come in on the same day with no questions asked, and provide them with a sufficient amount.
Moreover, during the interview, we asked Joseph Sloan which innovation would be the most beneficial to the environment and society because of the numerous milestones the supermarket has reached, and he claimed that they take donations that goes to helping women grow or even kickstart their own small businesses through a foundation called Whole Planet. This proves that Whole Foods not only provides healthy products for consumers, but they’re also trying to build up the community and show their support. Sloan also emphasized that the culture they had built with the trust and belief, had set the bar for other markets. Finally, we asked him about what has been the latest most successful sustainability innovation or partnership that has occurred with Whole Foods Market, he had said that after merging with Amazon, many orders have been coming in due to the easy accessibility. According to Sloan, “it created a bigger business now”, and this also stems from the fact that it includes Amazon Prime. Utilizing this, produce and groceries are able to be brought to one’s doorstep within less than 24 hours.
Business has the potential to make a powerful and positive impact on the world when it is based on a higher purpose besides generating profit and building value for shareholders. The higher purpose is what captivated consumer’s attention and engagement, as well as motivated stakeholders to commit to said organization. Whole Foods Market was created as a way to help people achieve a longer more fulfilling lifestyle that is substantially healthier than usual. This was first done through John Mackey’s first grocery store, Safer Way which did not succeed. However, it did initiate a movement that encouraged people to promote better and more sustainably green companies that share the same goal to positively alter the world we’re living in. Safer Way only lead to a better opening for Mackey when he founded Whole Foods Market. When Whole Foods Market launched its very first store in 1980, it created a shift in the organic culture in which people became more attentive and mindful of what they’re consuming. This attention had sparked hundreds of opportunities for entrepreneurs to merge into the industry and kickstart a venture regarding organic food. Moreover, it also opened up many opportunities for local farmers and local families that produce organic products to team up with the market and have their products set up on shelves. In fact, many food business owners believe that collaborating with Whole Foods Market had opened up many other business opportunities due to the fact that they worked with a high quality level operation. Several family owned food businesses received boosts in sales, brand exposure, and a guaranteed security.
Whole Foods Market had also initiated a movement that emphasized the need for social responsibility and an equal compensation for their producers that were located in developing countries. They highlight the need for this program as a commitment that will work in favor to all their stakeholders, specifically socially responsible investors. This means that a drop in profitability might be evident, but only because they are able to pay foreign workers a better salary that will then strengthen many relationships and improve the company’s brand name. The company is also known to donate at least 5% of all its profits on an annual basis, in addition to giving away 1% of their sales from Whole Trade certified products to the Whole Planet Foundation. This foundation provides several grants that finances institutions aiming to help those who are self employed.
The business benefit to Whole Foods Market’s innovation is creating a strong sense of customer loyalty. Customer satisfaction is actually one of their core values, and they strive to improve on a daily basis. As stated on their website, “If we want to optimize trust then we must seek to optimize transparency.” Because they are so transparent with their practices and strive towards educating the public on environmental issues they should be aware of, people are able to trust the brand and thus want to do more business with them. People can feel good about shopping at a store where they know is ethically run and cares about them and the environment. Whole Foods Market has benefited and grown so much from their customer base that they actually caught the eye of Amazon, who bought them for $13.7 billion in 2017. They continue to grow and expand all across the country and beyond to this day.
The societal benefit to Whole Foods Market’s innovation is the general public receives more information on how to live healthier and more fulfilling lives with the least amount of impact on the environment possible. Whole Foods Market was recognized by the EPA as a record setter in waste reduction and recycling due to the renovation of their corporate headquarters. They also encourage customers to use less toxic cleaning products, purchase bulk products to reduce waste, and utilize reusable shopping bags. This then has positive impacts on the environment as well, since their consumers are educated on ways they can be helpful. In fact, shortly after Earth Day in 2008, Whole Foods Market decided to completely eliminate the use of plastic from all their stores. Instead, they had decided to switch to paper bags that were made from recycled paper as well as their signature totes that were composed of recycled bottles. These totes were easily accessible to all shoppers as they are displayed right at the cashier desk. Additionally, all stores currently give back shoppers 10 cents for every reusable bag they bring in, another efficient way Whole Foods Market is able to align their incentives with their customers.
Furthermore, in terms of the overall agriculture industry, Whole Foods Market succeeds in improving the sustainability of the industry and avoids supporting the environmental pitfalls of conventional agriculture. The issues include the use of pesticides in their farming, pollution from concentrated animal feeding operations and the land degradation from expansive mono culture. These environmental issues are crucial to our environment due to the fact that not many supermarkets have joined the organic movement that Whole Foods Market is part of.
Joseph Sloan-Hillier, Associate Store Manager
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Los Angeles, California, US
Business Website: https://www.wholefoodsmarket.com
Year Founded: 1980
Number of Employees: 10000+