Whole Foods: Balancing Social Mission and Growth
affiliation not provided to SSRN
September 28, 2011
Harvard Business School Organizational Behavior Unit Case No. 410-023
In 2009, Whole Foods stands at a crossroads. Their incredible growth over the past 25 years has vaulted them into the ranks of the largest US supermarkets and they have arguably led to the widespread acceptance of natural and organic foods in the United States. Yet more recently, Whole Foods has come under attack as having abandoned their prior social mission as they have increasingly sought to deliver economic growth. The case begins with their acquisition of Wild Oats, at that time their largest competitor and describes many of the mechanisms they have used to successfully integrate prior acquisitions. Furthermore, the case shows the significant tension between their social mission and their far-flung supply chain, while discussing some of the tradeoffs that exist in the development of the "industrial organic" model. Finally, the case also allows for students to assess CEO John Mackey's new model of "conscious capitalism." Is Mackey's idea a workable model, or just an excuse for Whole Foods extensive growth while avoiding progressive practices such as a unionized workforce?
Learning Objective: How organizations can balance the demand for extensive growth while maintaining a social mission.
working papers series
Date posted: April 10, 2012
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