John Mackey gets TACTILE

Whole Foods Co-founder and CEO John Mackey is dedicated to creating a culture of conscious capitalism. “Corporations are seen as being motivated by greed,” he says, but “the greatest businesses have a sense of higher purpose.”

Mackey lays out his purpose in seven tenets that he’s dubbed TACTILE: Trust, Accountability, Caring, Transparency, Integrity, Loyalty and Egalitarianism.

It’s a refreshingly different philosophy, which Mackey himself describes as touchy-feely. “Loving and caring is something that rarely gets talked about in the corporate world,” he says. He imagines this will change as women take over more and higher positions in the business world. When it comes to caring, he says, “men are playing checkers, women are playing chess – and this is very good for our corporations.”

Mackey’s philosophy is grounded in a firm belief in the importance of a company’s employees. “You often hear people saying ‘Our people are our greatest asset.’ That’s so dehumanizing,” he says. “People aren’t a resource, they’re a source. Sources of ideas, sources of creativity, sources of the future.”

When it comes to the future of Whole Foods itself, Mackey speaks of a commitment to complete GMO transparency within five years, and an emphasis on animal welfare. “I think historians will look back 100 years from now and say ‘I can’t believe they did this to animals,’” he says.

Despite his Utopian visions, Mackey is no pushover hippie. He shows teeth when it comes to Whole Foods’ competitors. “These guys just copy us, but they’re last year’s model. We’re building the next one.”

Mackey laments that in his native USA, corporations have a dismal 19% popular approval rating. “One of my goals is to get that 19% up to 50%,” he says. It could be an uphill battle in a culture dominated by the “greed is good” ethos, but, as Mackey notes, “Nothing worthwhile is that easy to do.”