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PLMA 2012: Conscious Discipline

Anyone hoping that John Mackey would talk about Whole Foods’ hugely successful private-label program during his keynote at the PLMA show was out of luck.

“I’m not going to talk about that,” Whole Foods Market’s co-chief executive officer said bluntly soon after he got up to the podium.

But he talked about an equally compelling subject: how to be successful in business. Mackey discussed the subject of his book “Passion and Purpose. The Power of Conscious Capitalism.”

He explained that many people are opposed to capitalism because they view it as greedy and selfish. The key to changing negative attitudes about capitalism is by engaging in “conscious capitalism,” or conducting business in a way that combines profitability with honesty and integrity.

One aspect of conscious capitalism is that businesses must have a higher purpose other than making money. This could include helping the community, environment or improving people’s health and wellness.

Another part of conscious capitalism is when a business creates “value for all of its stakeholders.” Whole Foods’ core values, for instance, include providing high-quality natural and organic products available; satisfying its customers and supporting team member happiness and excellence.

Whole Foods reaped the benefits of this positioning when it was just starting out in 1980. A flood devastated its single-unit Austin store. Nearly nine-feet of water filled the store, ruining fixtures and destroying its inventory. Soon after the storm, the store’s workers came out in force to volunteer their time to help in the cleanup. Shoppers quickly followed suit.

The outpouring of support showed that when a business values its customers and employees, the appreciation will be returned.

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