“Top Ten Reasons Why It’s Silly to Boycott Whole Foods.”

Via on Jan 13, 2010

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(Don’t) Boycott Whole Foods!

Recently, I penned an article criticizing John Mackey, founder and CEO of Whole Foods, for voicing doubt on the supposed lack of scientific consensus behind Climate Change. In so doing, said article made the home page of Huffington Post, and was picked up by dozens of news organizations and sites nationally. And, in so doing, I continued to defend both Mr. Mackey‘s right (as with any of us) to free speech, criticizing him only as an influential leader leading those who look to him, as myself, astray on facts accepts by 90 and 94% of scientists, depending how the question is phrased. Climate Change is serious, and will effect us all—Far far right, far right, Republican, Democrat, Progressive, Libertarian. It already is.

But I also continued to defend Whole Foods from continued calls for a boycott that first arose after he published an anti- “Obamacare” health care reform editorial in the Wall Street Journal. Whole Foods is an invaluable company that’s shown the world that green can equal green.

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I posted on my facebook asking for readers to help me with what I termed “Top Ten Reasons Why It’s Silly to Boycott Whole Foods” …to offer reasons that they would continue to support Whole Foods, and received many responses, agreeing and criticizing…and one query from a thoughtful friend I know from Whole Foods (she works there, and contentedly!) offering to share her reasons with elephant readers.

Her thoughtful response is below, and comes via someone who knows WFM from the inside, out—which I think in itself mightily attests to WFM’s ability to walk its talk.

May it be of some benefit:

whole foods plastic bags

“Top Ten Reasons Why It’s Silly to Boycott Whole Foods.”

~ by Cory U-C.

10. Vendor fairs ~ every year, Team Members are invited to meet Whole Foods suppliers—face to face. Up-and-coming small businesses and old favorites come with samples of products to a large convention center, and nobody leaves with an empty stomach, and everybody always gains a new favorite product.

9. The only organic juice bar in Boulder is at Whole Foods/Alfalfa’s! Drink a fresh veggie juice and tell me you don’t feel like a million bucks.

8. Local produce from Colorado, the four corners region and some of the West Coast. No grocer can be a perfect local supplier, due to the nature of farming, climate, costs…however Whole Foods does honor its local farms above others whenever possible…in every region.

7. Specialty selections in meat, cheese, chocolate, coffee at much cheaper prices than provision stores.

6. Extremely competitive prices and less packaging on bulk items and many 365 brand products.

5. Green Mission is our recycling program at the store. It encourages recycling and composting. Whole Foods strives to be zero waste and tries at every outpost to become more energy efficient by offsetting its footprint with wind and solar energy.  This adds to the nice atmosphere in the store and sets a great example for the corporate world.

4. The Core Values of the company include: Selling the highest quality natural and organic products available, Satisfying and delighting our customers, Supporting team member happiness and excellence, Creating wealth through profits & growth, Caring about our communities & our environment, Creating ongoing win-win partnerships with our suppliers, Promoting the health of our stakeholders through healthy eating education…

3. Unbeatable benefits and fair wages for all team members.  As well as team member emergency fund which we can donate to in order to support fellow employees who are in need, financially. Although Whole Foods in an enormous corporation, my fellow team members are my family—they care about my happiness and I have the opportunity to voice my opinion and have mobility within the company. I can go from an after-school job as an undergrad to a team leader or store team leader.

2. Amazing customer service—the customer is always top priority, and most team members will go out of their way to show a customer where a product is, give them a sample, or order something or call another store if we are out of it. {ed: we want Vicolo frozen pizzas back, they’re amazing!}

1. Although John Mackey may not understand the repercussions of his influential statements, everyone is entitled to their opinion.  He only earns $1 a year!  He does not make a salary! Any actions one may take to boycott Whole Foods will be counter-productive. Boycotting Whole Foods will only hurt its employees—save your breath and become a conscious consumer!  Read labels, buy local and buy organic!  You really can meet your budget shopping at Whole Foods without compromising quality.  Ultimately, we all have a choice in where we shop and who we support with our money and until the return of the co-op, whole foods offers a great place to compliment your healthy lifestyle, as well as support vendors and small businesses that are truly making a difference in the world.

Plus, you could meet the love of your life at the checkout stand—I’ve seen it happen!

Also via Cory:

“I hope you find this helpful and can share with your readers!  Thanks for the support you give to the company, it’s much appreciated and doesn’t go unnoticed!  Good luck with the elephant—I voted for a small fee for the website to free yourself from advertisers and produce some more content for avid readers like myself.

The elephant is the sh*t!

Good day sir—”

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9 Responses to ““Top Ten Reasons Why It’s Silly to Boycott Whole Foods.””

  1. via my friend Reese McKay, an eloquent statement re the science and politics of Climate Change:

    Reese McKay
    Yes, indeed. Let's stick to science. It gets so tiresome to listen to almost any conversation about climate change because you can never get past the politics. I have studied the science of AGW (off and on at least) for the last 35 years. US Navy scientists discovered facts about ocean chemistry way back in the 1950s that made it clear that GW … See Morecould very likely be a real problem. Unfortunately ever since the 1980s when the science began to become even more clear, it has been highly politicized. It would be great if people would bother to study some half-way technical books on the subject. That would be helpful not only for the people who claim the science is "unsettled" but also for those who "believe in" global warming. Neither stance is very helpful if you don't have a good understanding of the underlying science.

  2. Comments via Facebook:

    Waylon Lewis: I'm putting together a post titled "Top Ten Reasons Why It's Silly to Boycott Whole Foods." Why do you appreciate Whole Foods? Wind power? Nice atmosphere? Reasonable prices (if mostly in bulk)? Perennial fave among Best Place to Work rankings? You like to support the thousands of green-minded entrepreneurs who sell th…eir wares there? They banned the plastic bag?

    Andrea
    I'm all for it – I love Whole Foods. Now that I'm in Oregon, I miss it!

    Sarah
    oh lord i miss whole foods..best place to run into anybody you've ever met in your entire life and you can always count on delicious samples scattered throughout the store.

    Laura
    why are people boycotting them? I'm out of the loop here in Flagstaff where we have a local natural foods chain and I don't have TV…. I like Whole Foods too!

    Kerry
    but if you're in or near portland you have new seasons!!!

    Sara
    Oregon has 10 WFM. They're just not every 5 blocks like in Colorado.

    Sara
    Sadly, not in Eugene.

    Gary Smith
    Let me know when you do the Top Ten Reasons to Boycott Whole Foods list.

    Kyna
    you're joking right?? sarcasm?? you backing down now? NO WHOLE FOODS SUCKS. they sell a few organic things and are a farce. VITAMIN COTTAGE, ethical.

    Ariana
    Sara – in Eugene you have fabulous grassroots places like the Kiva. I'd choose that over WF anyday!!

    Waylon Lewis
    Thanks, Kyna, for your enthusiasm, but I've never advocated for boycott of WFM, they may "suck" in your mind, but they're still far better than 90% of big businesses. Anyways.

    Kyna
    and you did say their ceo told you he does not believe in global warming, that alone is enough for me.

    Kyna
    wf makes a good show of being earthy. they do sell tie dyed socks.

    Kyna
    they still have plastic AND ban bags after vitamin cottage removed all bags. i just love companies who are desperate to do the right thing once they start losing a little business. nah..i'll take my little vitamin cottage anyday.

    Waylon Lewis
    Vitamin Cottage is great, Kyna, doesn't have to be a rivalry! I like WFM hugely precisely 'cause they are huge—they have power to effect huge change.

    That said, VC is a great Boulder etc option.

    Kyna
    I dislike them now despite all the glitz and glamour to attract women and despite all the pretty earthy men around there… because they do not back their image..Still selling damned tomatoes in summer from thousands of miles away , still selling asparagus from argentina…if they are ethical, they will sell what is available and ethically produced… See More. Not just wf, i feel the same about sunshine market, fake hippie earthy. AND if the dude said he even doubts global warming, he lost my pennies. support companies who have always done right, before it was cool.. i am waiting to see many big food companies fall, they sold us bad food for decades and i laugh if they fall. when it comes to industrialized food, i have not an ounce of compassion. bad bad buddhist wanna be i am :)

    Mira
    Right on girl!!! Why can't this town sustain a true Co-Op??? I wish we had a Briar Patch here, I miss that place. California has the best examples of thriving INDEPENDENT health food stores. What's the deal with Boulder??

    Andrew
    Indeed, bring back the community co-op. WF is too corporate, too much processed/packaged food and long-distance produce, hardly better than other corporate chains. Sadly, it is feel-good enough for Boulder.

  3. Steven
    Boulder has incredible choices for consumers on where they can purchase natural foods – Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage, Sprouts, Whole Foods, Sunflower Market, Lucky's Safeway, King Sooper, Niwot Market; it's the consumers who did not support the co-op or it would still be here. Also, Whole Foods helps local businesses get their start (e.g., … See MoreJustin's Nut Butter, Infinity Kombucha) and even has a loan program for small local business. It's easy to criticize – the real issue is the widespread adoption of genetic engineering in agriculture that is now in 80% of our food. Also, the widespread use of endocrine disrupting, toxic, synthetic pesticides that are harming humans, animals and the environment. Also, factory farming and confined animal farming operations that are inhumane. More than natural, buy organic! By law, organic prohibits these things. How about criticizing Monsanto and Syngenta who are trying to control our seed stock with their GMO seeds and voting with your dollars? All in all, Whole Foods has made an incredible contribution to improving the quality of food, agriculture and the environment. Disclosure: I own 100 shares of Whole Foods stock, but because I would rather put my money into socially responsible investment vehicles and WFM is one of them.

    Andrew
    It is not that simplistic, there was mismanagement at the root of the co-op's fate as much as anything else.

    FYI, organic does NOT prohibit inhumane confined animal farming operations.

    Also, criticizing WF is not mutually exclusive of being critical of Monsanto and its ilk.

    Kyna
    Grant Family Farms csa..local…there are also ethical beef farmers nearby you can visit and see cows grazing..also eggs from pet chickens. take action, eat food grown within 60 miles.

    Melony
    Vitamin Cottage in Boulder is probably the worst grocery store I've ever been to. For some reason the Vitamin Cottage in FoCo and Lafayette is a million times nicer than the Boulder VC. When it comes down to it, Whole Foods is clean, beautiful, well-stocked and has friendly staff…

    Malini
    Before I worked for WHF I heard they were a great employer. After working for them I realized they were just like any other corporation. Have you read Michael Pollans research on WHF?

  4. Darrin says:

    I see no reason to boycott Whole Foods, for all the positive reasons listed above. And/but, I do think Whole Foods dominates the natural/health food store industry, shadowing a point of entry for a co-op or individually owned- store, and reducing dramatically for their woukd-be competitor, a likelihood of sustainability and success.

    While this is not Whole Foods fault, nor their responsibility, the consumer is a shareholder in what exists or ceases to exist within their communitiy. Thus, we must remain cognizant of our impact as to where we channel our surplus dollars, and the associated impact within on our village(s).

  5. Via http://www.facebook.com/elephantjournal

    Anandi
    You do have a point.

    elephantjournal.com
    Cory, you mean! But I'll be happy to share in any of her eloquence.

    Cyndi
    What's better is to find a couple of local organic growers in your area..support them and eat according to what grows in the season – locally. There are other stores besides WF that sell organic products, and there are all sorts of local farmer's markets on the rise…find the locally grown sustainable agricultural farmers and SUPPORT THEM!!!!

    Anandi
    Both of you make good points. I always like to look at issues from different angles. I don't think WH is completely evil, but I am all for local & organic. I'm not thrilled with the conventional farmers markets in NYC as organic is more important (and pesticides have a more immediate effect on health) than carbon.

    Jennifer
    in my recent trip to San Fran…never been….. I was so relaxed as soon as I walked into whole foods. Normally I do not shop there…not really an option. But as the closest organic food to where I was staying I saw the value of whole foods.

  6. Actually, I participated for a time in boycotting Whole Foods, and I honestly believe that the changes I made as a result were better for my community (and would be especially so if large numbers of people made the same choice.) As a resident of Albuquerque, I am very lucky to have access to a fantastic local co-op, as well as numerous local growers selling their goods at farmers markets. By boycotting Whole Foods, I bought a MUCH higher percentage of locally produced foods. It put me in contact with local food producers, who inspired me to grow more of my own food and to keep chickens for eggs. I know these options aren't feasible for everyone, but I also think it's important not to underestimate what a targeted boycott can do, particularly in locations where there really, truly are better options available.

    • Thanks, Erin. Would that we had a co-op here in Boulder (love keeping the money in the community; I served on the board of our co-op here in Boulder for a brief time, but decided ultimately that we weren't accomplishing much, the leadership was difficult at that time, and the co-op ultimately failed a few years later).

      That said, Whole Foods is helping to change business generally, I think, which is equally invaluable in the other direction. It's setting an example.

  7. Erin says:

    Wonderful post Cory!! Very thoughtful and right on.

  8. [...] a good eco-citizen, I’ve been staying up-to-date on the Whole Foods Boycott debate, and can’t help but think how lucky (or privileged) we are to be able to have this discussion. No [...]

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