I think one of the most misunderstood things about business .. is that people are either doing things for altruistic reasons or they are greedy and selfish, just after profit. That type of dichotomy portrays a false image of business. It certainly is a false image of Whole Foods. The whole idea is to do both: The animals have to flourish, but in such a way that it'll be cheap enough for the customers to buy it. John Mackey, Whole Foods
Our business growth survey undertaken with UK business in spring 2015 indicates that 27.7% of respondents wanted to get better at creating a successful long term ethical business. These weren’t businesses that most people would think of, not Fairtrade or green, just normal business people and over a quarter chose this answer rather than more sales!
Generally we find people respond well when we talk about our passion for working with companies that want to change the world. People want to talk about values and having an impact. They want to make a difference.
But this does mean that the business or even the charity also has to be financially sustainable. You can only make a difference if you are still in business.
There are several ways to ensure profit is sustainable:
- Don't let a single customer account for more than 15% of your turnover
- Look for regular income rather than one off sales
- Consider the cost of getting a customer v the life time value of the customer
- Look to sell more to your existing customers - it costs less in marketing and they buy more
I think the hardest thing about my job is the way Whole Foods Market views itself philosophically is that we are a business dedicated to meeting all the various stakeholders of the company's best interests. And by stakeholders we mean customers, team members, stockholders, community, and the environment. Sometimes what is in the best interest of one stakeholder may not be in the best interest of another stakeholder, and as the CEO, I have to balance the various interests of the different constituencies and stakeholders to create win, win, win scenarios, and that can sometimes be very difficult to do. Everybody wants something from the CEO. John Mackey, Whole Foods
As the John Mackey quote shows it is not easy to run a balanced ethical business and as our Ethical Wheel of Success(c) illustrates there are many things to consider. But get it right and you can create an incredibly powerful business.
We always start by considering what are the core values of any business and how they translate into behaviour and strategy. Below is the inspire2aspire mission map© which illustrates our values and by definition our ethical stance.