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Walter Robb

Co-President, Whole Foods Market, Inc.

Walter Robb

OUR COMPETITIVE WEAPON IS OUR culture because, as opposed to a command-and-control culture, it is constantly evolving from all directions. Our culture is based on principles of inclusion, self-responsibility, and co-creator of the future. Whole Foods is a networked organization, a sharing organization—not one where everyone is waiting for some memo about what the future will look like. At Whole Foods, we follow the adage: Better to ask for forgiveness than for permission.

“Whole Foods is willing, as a company, to take steps to change things. We've got to take concrete steps to show not only our own team members, but also the world, that we're serious about our principles. For example, we don't sell sea bass anymore, even though it's our number two or three selling fish, because it's not being fished sustainably. We discontinued tilapia because we found out that they've been using hormones in the production of the fish. When we take a stand on GMOs, or we take a stand on animal compassion standards for meat production, or we take a stand on organic production, or we take a stand that no one here will make more than fourteen times the average wage, we stand by our principles and put ourselves on the line for being authentic and trustworthy.

“You see, we're not retailers who have a mission—we're missionaries who retail. At the very heart and soul of Whole Foods is the mission. We're here to make a real difference in people's health and well-being, in the health and well-being of the planet, and in creating a workplace based on love and respect. These simple things are so important to remember and stay grounded in, so that we don't get full of ourselves about the success we're having, because that success only comes from the quality and the depth of what we're here to do. So we put our customers and team members before our shareholders. We deliver results by being a mission-driven business. And if you compare our performance to other publicly traded food companies, it's superior. A thousand bucks invested in Whole Foods at the beginning in 1992 would be worth well over thirty thousand now. Since we've been public, we've delivered a twenty-five percent compounded annual growth rate. Our return on invested capital is north of thirty-five per cent. Those are some of the strongest numbers in the history of food retailing.”


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Our Business Issue