Whole Foods’ standing among its core constituency is less than it was before CEO John Mackey
wrote a well-publicized op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, attempting to
put the brakes on health care reform. According to Mashable.com,
which covers social media, positive perceptions of Whole Foods dropped
10 points in a week, and a 13 point drop in the perception that
respondents would be proud to work there. Mashable also notes that the
boycott group launched on Facebook is up to 27,000 members.
I’ve been very vocal over the years, saying that strong values can
add business value and profitability–most loudly in my award-winning sixth book, Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First. Does this mean that CEOs shouldn’t be vocal in expressing their opinions on issues of the day?
Not at all. To me, it indicates that CEOs should choose businesses
where their key demographic is in alignment with their values. Whole
Foods’ constituency is overwhelmingly liberal-to-progressive. If
management is shown to be ultra-conservative, their stand may “play in
Peoria”–but not necessarily in Cambridge, Berkeley, Austin, Ann Arbor,
and the other progressive communities that have welcomed a full-service
organic and natural supermarket.