Is Whole Foods Market an Exemplar of Environmental Care or Just Plain Greed?
There is quite a bit of chatter about the integrity of Whole Foods Market and the products they carry for the prices. Many would argue that Whole Foods, otherwise known as “Whole Paycheck” has overprices produce and questionable integrity. However, after reading a few articles about the company, their views of corporate social responsibility and their concern for the community, I believe that they are using genius marketing techniques to make their products seem better, when really they are not extra special or more environmentally friendly than other foods in the grocery store.
Time U.S. put out an article discussing Whole Foods’ corporate social responsibility, their non-profit sectors and their passion for building communities. In Englewood, a part of Chicago known for its vacant buildings and high rate of crime, people were shocked to hear that Whole Foods was coming to town. This is a place where 44% of people live under the poverty line, and it is certainly not up-and-coming.
Walter Robb, CEO of Whole Foods Market tells Time that “This was a bit of a stretch for us, but it’s the next stretch. And it’s one that makes sense.” Isn’t Whole Foods Market for trophy wives and CEOs? Apparently not… Walter Robb’s objective was to bring lower-than-average prices and a wider variety of food choices to a community which sadly does not have much access to fresh produce. He describes this move not as “charity”, but as a business with real focus.
The new store in Englewood was projected to create 100 jobs in the community, while working with the community college right nearby. This would give college students and other residents the opportunity to work for a company with strong values which seeks to give back to the community. Whole Foods Kids Foundation, a nonprofit donated $20,000 toward creating urban gardens in Englewood. Another $100,000 was presented on behalf of Whole Foods Market to Growing Home, which is a transitional job-training farm program which would include three local farms. Many were hopeful that the opening of Whole Foods would promote retail development in the area to further contribute to the building-up of the local economy. A 2007 study found that property values around Whole Foods Market’s would typically increase around 17.5%. There have been several other Whole Food Markets’ placed in struggling neighborhoods, such an areas in Detroit and Boston’s Jamaica plains.
CNN Money posted an article arguing the reasons why Whole Foods is just not worth the expense. For starters, all produce has a carbon footprint. In other words, your mangoes did not walk here from South America – fuel was used to haul this produce around to different Whole Foods Market locations. Whole Foods Market supplies a minuscule amount of locally grown produce. On the topic of produce, not all produce is worth buying organic. Since pesticides are not used in the process of growing produce, anything with thinner, more permeable skin such as apples or grapes are more worth purchasing organic. However, an avocado or an orange is much less likely to absorb a harmful amount of pesticides.
Whole Foods Market also carry junk food. They might make their cookies look healthy and diet-friendly when they stuff them into recycled paper bags, but they are still made from butter and sugar. In fact, CNN points out that their round crackers are higher in fat and calories than Ritz. They also carry an array of in-store prepped foods. They present them nicely and use organic ingredients, however you cannot see the nutrition label and have no idea how healthy – or not – these foods are.
From this research, Whole Foods Market does not seem to be 100 percent “good hearted”, instead it seems that the company is trying to profit off of good marketing tactics (which seem to be working). By making the community feel that this company will bring in more jobs and more income, while the prices for their products still maintain unrealistic for the poverty levels within each community. It is up to us as individuals to better educate ourselves about the products we buy and put into our bodies every day.
Sooner than later,