Whole Foods face investor pressure on climate change

Posted by Josette Dunn on 10th March 2010

Shareholders in the US company Whole Foods Market yesterday (8 March) voiced opposition to what they termed the “unsustainable business practices” that the company has adopted on climate change.At a shareholder meeting in Vancouver, Canada, a coalition of shareholders – including labour unions, environmental groups and food activists – hit out at the company’s “hypocrisy” after management denied the existence of climate change.

In January, Whole Foods founder and chief executive John Mackey told The New Yorker that he was concerned climate “hysteria” will lead the government “to raise taxes and increase regulation, and in turn lower our standard of living and lead to an increase in poverty.”

Mackey described the science of global warming as unsettled and went so far as to suggest that warming temperatures cause prosperity.

Mackay has also been a vocal opponent of healthcare reform in the US and his actions have prompted calls for a boycott of the natural and organic retailer.

“Whole Foods is alienating its consumer base,” Ronnie Cummins, executive director of Organic Consumers Association claimed. “Whole Foods customers will not stand for business policies that hurt workers, the environment, and dilute organic standards.”

According to the shareholder coalition, the outspoken and controversial nature of his comments have also had a negative impact on the company’s share price.

“The recent actions taken by Whole Foods’ management such as denying global warming and intimidating its workers has set the sustainability movement in an uproar that is making it a risk to shareholders and investors,” said Jamie Biggar, chairman of the Sierra Club British Columbia. “The share price has fallen 30% over the last five years.”

The coalition is asking Whole Foods to sign a sustainable food pledge that would bring together key stakeholders to discuss improving the sustainable credentials of the company’s business practices and supply chain.

Whole Foods was not available for comment at time of press.

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