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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Welcome to 'Whole-Mart' - Rotten Apples in the Social Responsibility Industry

On a trip to Portland, Oregon in 2004, I wandered into the downtown Whole Foods Market, where shoppers are greeted with soft-hued lighting, high ceilings, and carefully groomed displays of choice desserts and organic foods. The overall effect is more like entering some modern cathedral to upscale consumption, one in which the creed is not suffering, but celebration (although with plenty of tithing at the cash register). Casually dressed clerks add to the sense of Whole Foods as business as unusual. The mostly young employees convey a kind of �alternative� aura that says, �You'll never catch me working at Wal-Mart.�

But where Wal-Mart has come under deserved scrutiny from labor, community, and feminist activists for its exploitive �big-box� business model and miserly wages, Whole Foods, the world's largest natural foods retailer, enjoys a reputation as a progressive trendsetter at the forefront of a �green lifestyle revolution� in American life. After all, a slogan like �Whole Foods, Whole Planet, Whole People� does conjure up more ennobling vistas of planetary progress than, �We Sell for Less.�
read more: Welcome to 'Whole-Mart'


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