Eco-Advantage Blog

July 24, 2007 | Andrew Winston | Jump to: Comments (0) | Post A Comment

Whole Transparent Foods

[Originally posted here]

The bizarre story of Whole Foods’ CEO John Mackey is very educational. In case you missed it (which would be hard), Mackey was using the internet in ways that he shouldn’t. No, this wasn’t another sex scandal. Operating under the name “Rahodeb,” for years Mackey was posting comments on Yahoo Finance investor boards, taking shots at competitor Wild Oats (and in some stranger moments, defending the Whole Foods’ CEO’s haircut – yes, that’s his own hair — as ‘cute’). Gleefully, the Wall Street Journal recently ran a front page, center column story…the second front pager in just eight days.

This story is just too easy – thus the constant coverage. How much more can you say about how not-smart his behavior was? Wow.

But let’s look at it in another way. What’s the connection to the trend toward responsible and green business? In Green to Gold, we talk about the Green Wave, the combination of natural world and stakeholder pressures coming to bear on companies. In addition, seismic global forces are making the Wave even stronger – Friedman “World is Flat” kinds of trends like technology, globalization…and transparency.

This Mackey story is a new classic demonstrating how hard it is to hide what you do anymore. Anything you write, say, instant message, or send by carrier pidgeon – no matter how you encode it or hide behind a pseudonym – has a very good chance of becoming public knowledge. Mackey is in the middle of the proverbial nightmare, “Don’t do anything you wouldn’t want splashed on the front page of the paper.” And he’s lived it twice in a week.

The world is driving fast toward universal expectations of transparency. Companies and CEOs are even starting to encourage this, with blogs from inside companies – the Journal did a follow up story last week about this phenomenon and the problem of over-sharing (one CEO talked about his colonoscopy). Examples abound – more here from an earlier post.

This new world of transparency means companies will need to open up about everything they do and how they impact the world – socially, environmentally, and through their Internet posts.


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