Whole Foods CEO Raises Eyebrows With Climate Change Doubt

by | Jan 5, 2010

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john mackeyWhen John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, told the New Yorker that “no scientific consensus exists” about the causes of climate change, he thrust himself – and his chain – negatively into the spotlight among many ec0-minded shoppers.

Perhaps it’s just coincidence that 10 days before the profile article published (Jan. 4) he stepped down as chairman of Whole Foods, but some of have seized upon the close timing between the two, calling his comments “loose talk.”

But when Mackey stepped down Dec. 24, he did so out of concerns by corporate activists that the chairman and CEO jobs should be in separate hands, Reuters reports. Mackey had held the chairman role since he co-founded the company in 1978, and he will retain his role as CEO.

Waylon Lewis, in a column at Huffington Post, derided Mackey for his recent opinions about climate change, which included the statement that it would be a shame to allow “hysteria about global warming … to raise taxes and increase regulation, and in turn lower our standard of living and lead to an increase in poverty.”

“I love that a libertarian entrepreneur with guts to speak his mind, a la Apple’s Jobs, is in charge of one of the greatest green success stories since…well, ever,” Lewis wrote.

“Still, as Al Gore said a year or so ago, the time for argument is past. There’s a clear consensus among scientists — 90% agree that Climate Change is significantly caused by human activities. 94% agree that it’s a real and present danger, not a far-off hypothetical fear for science fiction writers to have fun with,” he continued.

The New Yorker article, “Food Fighter,” penned by Nick Paumgarten, refers to Mackey as a “right-wing hippie.”

Mackey told The New Yorker:  “I have my own views, and they’re not necessarily the same as Whole Foods’. People want me to suppress who I am. I guess that’s why so many politicians and C.E.O.s get to be sort of boring, because they end up suppressing any individuality to conform to some phony, inauthentic way of being. I’d rather be myself.”

In the article, Gary Hirshberg, CEO of Stonyfield, an organic dairy firm, commented that, “He is Whole Foods management’s greatest asset but also, at times, its greatest challenge.”

Mackey maintains a blog on the Whole Foods Web site.

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