Can "Conscious Capitalism" Result in Greater Profit?

Whole Foods CEO John Mackey thinks companies that pay competitive wages and focus on "higher purpose" in customer interactions will ultimately create the most value for their shareholders.

Whole Foods CEO John Mackey is spearheading a business movement that calls for a more "conscious" capitalism. He believes that companies that focus on "higher purpose" will ultimately be the most profitable for shareholders.

His plan involves shifting priority from return on investment to practices that will benefit all of a company's stakeholders—including employees, customers, suppliers, and even the communities in which business is located. Mackey says businesses should create value for employees through better-than-industry-average wages, benefits, and opportunities. Employees will then be motivated to create value for the customers and suppliers through better service, and the company will, in turn, do more and better business—creating value for investors.

For Mackey, it’s the face-to-face interactions between employees and customers—and between buyers and suppliers—that form what he calls the "higher purpose" of increasing value. Customers will a pay a little more and drive the extra mile, and suppliers will work toward better deals, for better, more personal interactions. 

"When you work from a higher purpose you unleash greater degrees of commitment, greater degrees of loyalty and greater creativity in the workplace and that gives competitive advantage," says Mackey. 

Other proponents of this kind of "conscious" capitalism include CEO Kip Tindell of The Container Store, who echoes Mackey, saying: "People think that we’re just being altruistic. No. If all you wanted to do was to make as much money as possible, as rapidly as possible, I would submit to you that this methodology is the best way to get there.”  Like Whole Foods, The Container Store has had sustained growth while consistently being listed among FORTUNE's 100 Best Companies to Work For.

More Resources

— Big Think interview with Doug Rauch, former president of Trader Joe's.

— Big Think interview with Lawrence Koh, CEO of International Diversified Products.

— Mackey, J. "The Whole Foods Alternative to ObamaCare." Wall Street Journal.

James Patterson on writing: Plotting, research, and first drafts

The best-selling author tells us his methods.

  • James Patterson has sold 300 million copies of his 130 books, making him one of the most successful authors alive today.
  • He talks about how some writers can overdo it by adding too much research, or worse, straying from their outline for too long.
  • James' latest book, The President is Missing, co-written with former President Bill Clinton, is out now.
Keep reading Show less

How to vaccinate the world’s most vulnerable? Build global partnerships.

Pfizer's partnerships strengthen their ability to deliver vaccines in developing countries.

Susan Silbermann, Global President of Pfizer Vaccines, looks on as a health care worker administers a vaccine in Rwanda. Photo: Courtesy of Pfizer.
  • Community healthcare workers face many challenges in their work, including often traveling far distances to see their clients
  • Pfizer is helping to drive the UN's sustainable development goals through partnerships.
  • Pfizer partnered with AMP and the World Health Organization to develop a training program for healthcare workers.
Keep reading Show less

Why the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner won’t feature a comedian in 2019

It's the first time the association hasn't hired a comedian in 16 years.

(Photo by Anna Webber/Getty Images for Vulture Festival)
Culture & Religion
  • The 2018 WHCA ended in controversy after comedian Michelle Wolf made jokes some considered to be offensive.
  • The WHCA apologized for Wolf's jokes, though some journalists and many comedians backed the comedian and decried arguments in favor of limiting the types of speech permitted at the event.
  • Ron Chernow, who penned a bestselling biography of Alexander Hamilton, will speak at next year's dinner.
Keep reading Show less