The Evolution of a Company's "Purpose"
John Mackey opened a small health food store in Austin in 1978, which in 1980 merged with another local natural foods store to form the foundation on which Whole Foods Market was born. Mackey has led Whole Foods Market since the beginning through mergers and internal development to create a FORTUNE 500 company. Whole Foods is now one of the top 12 supermarket companies in America and the world's largest natural foods retail chain.
Mackey says his business philosophy is to act with care and responsibility toward all of the various stakeholder groups of the company and to operate Whole Foods Market with social and environmental responsibility. He was named 2003 Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young.
John Mackey: As a company grows, its purpose grows with it. It has the potential to evolve your purpose. The original entrepreneur may initiate the initial purpose, but, in a sense, like a parent that has children, the children have their own destiny, and at some point that can veer off away from the wishes the parent might have for it. I think that is a pretty good analogy or good metaphor in that Whole Foods is 30 years old. It has its own purpose and destiny now apart from the father who created it. So the stakeholders--the customers care, the team members care, investors care. They’re all sort of co-evolving the purpose. We’ve always believed in a sense of social responsibility.
We’ve always tried to be good citizens in the communities that we do business in. And we thought of that as meaning we would support, philanthropically, not-for-profit organizations in each community that we trade in, which is something we do. 90% of our money that we give away—we contribute over 5% of our net profits and most of that is done locally at our store level. But we began to ask the question, do we have any responsibility in these developing nations where we’re trading in, where we buy our coffee from, where we get our bananas from? And what we discovered is that we asked that question and we answered it yeah, we do think we do have some responsibility for that.
Directed by Jonathan Fowler
Produced by Elizabeth Rodd
Defining a company’s purpose may begin with the philosophy of an entrepreneur. But, over time, the contributions of team members and stakeholders will naturally change a company's destiny.
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