Whole Foods, Whole Planet, but Half Hearts?


The goal for an employee is to work at a great place, where they are respected and can grow their career. On another level, many people want to work for a company that contributes to society in a positive way. But do those two circumstances happen together? And is a company that respects their employees and builds their community always ethical? There isn’t an exact formula to this question, because it’s complex and circumstantial.

Whole Foods Market has been a highly respected since its start. It prizes itself on being focused on a healthy diet and lifestyle. All employees are benefited with 20% off store purchases, and 30%, if they enroll in a healthy lifestyles program. In addition, employees are given memberships to a gym! They hire a range of employees, with 44% being minorities. In addition, Whole Foods was #55 on Forbes’ List of ‘100 Companies to Work for.” Not only do its employees enjoy working at World Foods, many environmentalists praise it for selling mostly local, sustainable, and humane food. On the whole, most people would agree that Whole Foods respects its employees and also betters the community.

Recently however, it was discovered that Whole Food’s Tilapia is prison –raised in Colorado Correctional Industry’s fish farm. The ethical problem surrounding the prison workers is the lack of labor rights and they are paid a meager $1.50 an hour. the question raised by many stakeholders is this socially responsible of Whole Foods? Also, does this one act make it unethical? In my opinion, Whole Foods is still socially responsible. But this incident definitely shows the true colors of Whole Foods, if they can earn more profit (the tilapia is cheaper to buy) then they will, even if it means they are cutting some ethical corners.

But the real question is how many times can a company cut ethical corners, until it is unethical? Whole Foods never openly stated where the tilapia was from because of loose federal regulation on prison farm products. So the company figured that customers would never hear of the true origins of their tilapia. In addition the company responded to the tilapia issue by stating, “no other national grocery store or fish market has standards like these.” Therefore justifying their actions by showing that although there practices aren’t ethical, they are more ethical than all the other markets. This is similar to Apple stating that although they had labor rights issues, they are better than most other technology companies. Just because one company is ethically better than rest in it’s industry, does that automatically make it an ethical company?