CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va., April 29, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- "I'm going to argue that business and capitalism have bad brands," says John Mackey, co-founder and co-CEO of Whole Foods Market. "In the 20th century there was this huge battle between capitalism and socialism. I would argue that capitalism won that battle."
It's a question that Mackey deconstructs and answers in his talk, "Conscious Capitalism: A New Business Paradigm for the 21st Century." Mackey's Tuesday presentation served as part of the Leadership Speaker Series hosted at the Darden School of Business.
According to Mackey, capitalists made the mistake of agreeing with their enemies and allowing themselves to be defined as self-interested and greedy. Mackey hopes to change this image by pointing out all of the good things capitalism has made possible over the last 200 years. He discusses how capitalism created prosperity and continues to lift the world's citizens out of poverty.
"There are people alive in this room today, some of you are young enough, that you will see the end of poverty," Mackey asserts. "We will wipe it out in the 21st century."
So how will business help humanity march towards this goal while improving its reputation?
Mackey believes it can be done through the Whole Foods Market approach to conducting business: Conscious Capitalism. It is a model that promotes aligning business with a purpose and is administered by leaders who embody love and care. In this model, helping all stakeholders, such as investors, suppliers, communities and customers, takes center stage. When these things fall into place, then according to Mackey, profits will come.
"Everybody can win in business except for the competitors who don't improve or create more value. They get voted out of the market place by customers," says Mackey.
Darden Professor R. Edward Freeman introduced Mackey to the audience. The two have collaborated for classroom presentations and case development.
"Sometimes when you meet your heroes they don't live up to what you expected. In meeting John and getting to know him over the past few years, he far exceeded even my very high expectations," Freeman says.
In 1980, Mackey and his partner, Renee Lawson, teamed up with two other young entrepreneurs to create Whole Foods Market. They opened a 10,000 square foot store in Austin, Texas. Today, Whole Foods Market now has 298 stores in the U.S., Canada, and the UK.
Mackey and the Whole Foods Market leadership team promote decentralization and are always willing to experiment with new business ideas. The company's approach to managing teams is based on the ideals of respect for the individual and self-empowerment. Mackey also co-founded Conscious Capitalism, a non-profit organization with the tagline: Liberating the Entrepreneurial Spirit for Good. Through these and a host of other activities, Mackey works to improve the world's health by improving the way we eat.
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