Saturday, January 9, 2010

Is Whole Foods Bad for the Planet? | Food | AlterNet

Question: Should customers of a brand/store/service expect the CEO of the company to believe as they do? Whole Foods certainly brands itself as providing food and other products geared to the eco-green-conscious people of the world. And it is a head scratcher that the Whole Foods CEO is a Corporatist global warming denier.

Certainly the stereotype around Whole Foods is tree hugging ecological sanity. But I find a strange schism between that stereotype and the reality I see while shopping at Whole Foods. When shopping I tend to ride an electric bicycle with trailer to haul the groceries (the trailer can carry four bags of groceries) and witness a whole heck of a lot of SUV's being driven to that Whole Foods. There's something strangely disconnecting between the Whole Foods stereotype and the actuality of those SUV's in the parking lot. Perhaps the truth of Whole Foods really is greenwashing that starts with the CEO and goes all the way to the shoppers.

The alternet.org article has this to say: "In a recent New Yorker profile of Mackey, the Whole Foods chief argues that there is no scientific consensus regarding the causes of climate change. He lists Heaven and Earth: Global Warming--the Missing Science, a skeptical take on warming, as one of his recent favorite reads. He frets that the "hysteria about global warming" will cause the United States "to raise taxes and increase regulation, and in turn lower our standard of living and lead to an increase in poverty." He adds: "Historically, prosperity tends to correlate to warmer temperatures.""

It goes on to describe his ideas as not only wrong but, uh, wacky. (?? Get it? Wacky? Mackey? groan)

To be sure Whole Foods does provide a lot of information about rainforest preservation, the carbon footprint of food, and other topics surely meant to warm the sustainability minded folk like myself.

An earlier alternet.org article takes a slightly take on the question here. Whole Foods may have started out with great eco-consciousness but along the way to its current status as a big box store perhaps something was lost. Or maybe it was never there to start with.

Whole Foods today lives in the big box genre (the store I shop at is larger than the Walmart across the street). To get this big they swallowed up several smaller chains such as Wild Oats.

Being so large means Whole Foods has a huge purchasing impact on the organic foods industry. It means organic foods makers have to scale up production to the amount required to fill all Whole Foods stores. This raises questions over just how accurate the green-eco-conscious stereotype can be when the company is so big.

Or does it? Or is this a challenge to eco-green-conscious people who tend to decry against large corporations as automatically being evil? Perhaps this is a large corporation who truly is doing good and disproving the contention that all large corporations are evil.

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