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Whole Foods Market CEO and co-founder John Mackey told a packed crowd Monday at the PLMA Salute To Excellence breakfast that business people were the heroes of the world story, helping to eradicate hunger from the planet and pulling billions up out of poverty.
Mackey studied philosophy and religion when he was in college, and those skills were on full display in his nearly hour-long presentation at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare ballroom. He talked about the advancements made over the past 200 years since capitalism took hold around the world, lifting billions out of hunger and putting the globe on pace to eradicate abject poverty in the next 50 years.
Yet despite the successes, he said, business people were vilified and shackles were being placed on capitalism and businesses.
“Businesses are the heroes of the story,” he said. “We are not the villains. We are the ones helping humanity to prosper and evolve. … (But) businesses are still hated. We’re a bunch of greedy bastards. That’s how business is portrayed in the world.”
Businesses themselves need to change that narrative as quickly as possible, Mackey said.
“The intellectuals have always hated business people,” he said. “This isn’t new. Study your history. You cannot underestimate the power of envy.
“The biggest problem though is that the economists and business people themselves do a bad job of defending themselves. Greed is not good. Wealth is good. Prosperity is good. But greed is not good.”
Mackey said that the 21stCentury required a new kind of capitalism. A conscious capitalism, based on four ideas.
- Business has a higher purpose than just making money.
- Business should be managed on behalf of all the stakeholders, within and connected to the company.
- Helping suppliers to flourish will also ensure that your business will flourish.
- Leaders need to be servant leaders, concerned about the best choices for all involved and not simply attracted to power or money.