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Whole Foods CEO Raises Eyebrows With Climate Change Doubt

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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20 thoughts on “Whole Foods CEO Raises Eyebrows With Climate Change Doubt

  1. John’s entitled to his opinion, but there’s a lot less “Scientific Consensus” that organic food is better for you than there is for Climate Change, and it didn’t stop him from getting rich selling the stuff. Maybe he’s just afraid that a carbon tax will leave people with less money to spend on Whole Food’s overpriced vegetables.

  2. John Mackey has highlighted how easy it is to damage a reputation and so much great work with just a couple of words.

    The real story is what happens next – how (if at all) does he explain his comments?

    This could get interesting!

  3. This is absolutely irresponsible. Just great John! Thanks for undermining, and probably influencing those in denial of our vanishing resources, and the legacy we wil leave our children. How ignorant it is to do anything to delay or impede any progress in salvaging our planet, and efforts to improve the world left to our children. If your intention is to hurt WF with this parting shot..its despicable. But effective.

  4. He may have his own views, but they are wrong. There is extraordinary scientific consensus. I agree with Ski about organic food…especially the overpriced variety sold at WF; I try to shop there, but prefer to buy the same things elsewhere that are far less expensive. While he’s certainly entitled to his opinion, he clearly doesn’t understand that when he speaks, he is viewed as the CEO of WF. He can’t say “WF doesn’t have an opinion on this” or “this is my opinion not WF’s” because he is tightly associated with the company. His brain-dead blitherings further impacts my already low opinion of WF. Such is the challenge of being a public figure.

  5. Man that makes me angry. For someone operating in the “green” space to be that uneducated about climate change is inexcusable. Absolutely inexcusable.

    Make Mackey take 2 hours out of his “busy schedule” to sit down and get some basic education on climate change from someone who knows what they are talking about. Then maybe he can stand behind his company’s publicly stated “green mission”:

    “The people who work here — from the CEO on down — are passionate about food, good health and the future of this little blue dot that we all call home.”

    Wow, everyone from the “CEO on down” is passionate about our planet’s future, huh? Clearly Mackey isn’t that passionate about it since he has not bothered to educate himself on what is not only the critical environmental issue of our time, but also the critical social, political, and economic issue of our time.

    I have been a long time, faithful Whole Foods customer. But there is a local chain working hard to be green not too far from my house, and I may need to switch.

  6. He is wrong but he is a self described ‘grocer’. His opinion on climate change science is worth less than Creighton’s, which was worh zero. Let’s move on.

  7. He’s got nothing to “explain”. His comments stand for themselves. And he’s right. For the remaining ostriches, wishing everyone would just agree and start sacrificing according to their prescriptions (and this crowd is dwindling due to embarrasment every day), maybe you need to question why thousands upon thousands of American scientists actually do disagree, and have in fact debunked your religion – excuse me, your “science”.

    If it’s your religion, stop reading here. There is no helping you. For those not sure, like me, find out why 31,000+ American scientists – with no affiliation to Energy companies (for all you lib conspiracy theorists) – are challenging the media hype and hysteria…


    Here is an example of “settled science”: If you release a bowling ball from five feet above your big toe, what does the settled science with regard to the law of gravity say will happen? Here is another: What does the settled science say happens to water when it is heated above 212 degrees Fahrenheit, or cooled below 32 degrees Fahrenheit?

    There is no such thing as consensus in science. Something is either scientifically provable, or it is not. If there is debate, then conclusions are not “science”. They are either religion or politics. Sadly, in the United States of 2010, these two forces have combined to form what we refer to as political correctness. But only those with the right religion and the right politics are allowed in the club.

    Those who want in, will conform. The rest of us wouldn’t be caught dead being associated with a group that tells us what to think.

    And by the way, for those to young to remember – in the 1970’s we were all going to die because of global cooling, over population of the earth, exhausted oil supplies, and food shortages. But 30+ years later, we’re told cow farts and our expelled breath are going to melt polar icecaps, the population of the earth has increased geometrically, we have more oil reserves than we’ve ever had, and we pay farmers NOT to grow food because we have too much.

    That is not what I’d call missing a prediction or two. That is being spectacularly incorrect at every opportunity. Think for yourselves people.

  8. Why does everyone have to blast John Mackey for what he thinks? He is his own person with his own opinion. His vision of Whole Foods Market was so opportune and is a wonderful shopping experience. His view point on his Conscious Capitalism CD is how all American Corporations should be running their business. Listen to it. John Mackey, I’m with you.

  9. John Mackey deserves a bonus.

    Global Warming is not even close to being understood well enough to even know what effects we really have on the atmosphere. The only consensus is that the earth has warmed in the last 200 odd years, and had arisen out of a little ice age. What it was before that ice age, in the middle ages was comparable or even warmer than today, especially in the Northern Hemisphere– and this was largely due to the sun.

  10. In the case of Climate Change there are thousands of scientists who have based their conclusions from information that came from their “credible source”: The CRU. We now know, based on their own emails and computer code, that the CRU was incompetent at best and corrupt at worst. The “94%” have been getting information which was WRONG; And don’t give me any “taken out of context” BS, I have read the entirety of the majority of emails myself. I’m no fool, I know exactly what these scientists at the hub of the global warming cabal were doing: cherry-picking data, ostracizing dissenters, and hiding from FOI requests (Which is against the law). If they were willing to break the law, what else are they or have they been willing to do?

    CO2 is plant food, not a poison, deal with it. Against all “warmist” predictions, plants are NOT dying off, in fact they are prospering, and so too are the animals that feed off of them and on up the chain.

    If you throw out the lie which was Michael Mann’s “Hockey Stick Chart”, and consider the overwhelming empirical evidence, then the world is NOT the warmest it’s been in the past two millennia or even the past millennium. With this knowledge, why would we need to be alarmed at the current warming trend which has been established to have started over 150 years ago with no possibility of discernible propagation by mankind?

    I could go on and on and on, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many things wrong with the Climate Change hoax and the Cap-and-Trade scam that books can and have been written about it, either way, decrying that the science is “settled” is a pathetic attempt to muzzle opposition.

    Finally, when talking about the “scientific consensus” I’m reminded attempt by the Nazis to discredit Einstein, by having two hundred “A consensus” of German scientists denounce him as a charlatan and an incompetent. When asked about these two hundred, scientists who agreed he was all wet, Einstein said, “It only takes ONE to prove me wrong.”

  11. Anyone is entitled to their own opinion, but can Mackie, or anyone else, provide a peer-reviewed article that demonstrates the scientific basis for climate change being caused by other than human intervention in our planet’s welfare? If not, perhaps it is time all the disbelievers shut up and let everyone else get on and do something about the mess we are creating. Because it is not going to get any better, it is not going to magically disappear, just because someone like him doesn’t believe in it. It’s not like choosing the God you want to follow, or what music you like!

  12. What remains baffling to me about corporate CEOs and the GW question is the underlying value of sustainabaility practices in the enterprise. Whether the corner office “believes” in climate change or not is really beside the point; massive cost savings–which flow directly to the bottom line–can accrue to any company that practices straight-forward energy efficiency/input reduction/waste-stream management strategies–and make plenty of PR hay to boot. As a result, CEOs such as Mackey can be either right or wrong about Global Warming, and won’t matter. Just another opportunity to be doing well by doing good…

  13. The name-calling often used by climate change skeptics mirrors the politics of the day, and has no place in scientific discussion. Robert’s comments reflect a lack of understanding about the process of science: it is rarely absolute (as in gravity’s impact on a bowling ball), it is built upon peer review, and consensus only grows after enough evidence has been collected and presented as to allow those with appropriate expertise to evaluate it.
    Similarly, Robert has not evaluated the credibility of the link he provides. The organization is not a scientific organization; rather it is a family operation with no standing in the scientific community. The “petition” signed by 31,000 “scientists” is not what it appears to be; it has been widely discredited, as can be seen with a simple online search:




    It’s understandable that many question the certainty of scientists that climate change is underway, as the economic impacts of changing the energy basis of all national economies will be profound. However, the scientists (thousands of whom participate in the IPCC periodic assessment reports) themselves are drawing conclusions from thousands of empirical investigations, and do not have economic motives. What we need are the efforts by all educated people to support development of new energy networks and research that will help us minimize the economic impacts of making the transition from carbon-based energy to other, more sustainable forms of energy production/capture and distribution networks.

  14. Dear Susan,
    The commenter’s name appears UNDER the comment, not above. (That format should be changed.) I am not the ‘schmuck’ here, that ‘honor’ goes to “Mark”. My comment is brief but agrees with yours. Robert

  15. So if someone’s ideas aren’t progressive, then they must be wrong. Those progressives always preaching they open minded but then berate anyone who thinks differently. His company is both green and also pays for his employees healthcare. Both subjects he made comments on, and by stating his opinion on the way Government should practice not the Private Sector, both times got all those “open-minded” progressives panties in a bunch. Instead of supporting a company that promotes better practices than most, you demean it. How about you find out what you really believe in, if you want government regulating everything under the sun and telling you what to do all the time, maybe change from progressive to communist. You just upset that a so called progressive company is just responsible and doesn’t actually think like you.

  16. It is breathtaking when reading Leftist blogs how all the so called compassionate people who value diversity are so determined to destroy anyone who has the temerity to disagree with them. Why do all Leftists expect each other to walk in lockstep? And when one becomes an apparent apostate like John Mackey, my goodness, H3LL hath no fury like a true-believer scorned.

    Also, the arrogance of Leftist ignorance is staggering. You all think you are so much smarter and better informed, but the comments here regarding the myth of human CO2 emissions causing climate change lack the intelligence of a grade-school child.

    Please, offer one piece of empirical evidence that even makes your grass-skirted ideas plausible. FYI – computer modeled data and scenario projections do not constitute evidence. Believe me, I am not going to hold my breath waiting (even if that would reduce my CO2 footprint:)

  17. As a long time WF investor and loyal customer, I am outraged and ashamed to hear of John Mackey’s completely uninformed comments about the so called “lack of scientific consensus” on Climate Change. The right wing noise machine can fool some conspiracy theorists, but the many thousands of scientists from around the world who have studied this first hand, know with certainty that higher C02 levels equal higher global temps. And the fact that we have never had such a rapid and dangerous rise in CO2 or climate change is based on comparing current and ancient ice core samples. No amount of Exxon/Mobil’s millions of dollars of ads and PR can negate those facts. It is fine for John to be a maverick leader of a company, but to put out such unsubstantiated statements in a major publication like The New Yorker (or anywhere as a representative of WF) is highly unprofessional, damaging to both the company and public awareness and questionable under any circumstances. Is it simply bad business for one of the most respected companies in the US to have a leader who is so misinformed about such a globally recognized and crucial sustainability issue. Does he want the many folks like me, who recognize the issue at hand is one of climate denial, to start buying our healthy and organic products at Trader Joes, Wild Harvest, Natural Food Coops etc. Companies with such uniformed leadership will lose the invaluable brand loyalty WF has earned over many years? In addition to the consumer ramifications, doesn’t WF top management recognize the risks to our agricultural system and other basic infrastructure from Climate Change? I am glad that Susan (below) has debunked the desparate thinking in Mark and jssmi65’s misguided commentary – with real facts not the trumped up info they presented. I hope WF will find a way to right this wrong and have the CEO pulically align himself with the company’s stated Core Values, so I can continue to be their biggest fan and support WF with my hard earned dollars. Sincerely – Investor and Loyal Shopper, Tedd

  18. The truth about climate change on this planet is……..it changes. We have had the greatest warming period, “when the ice age ended 12,000 plus years ago.” The oceans rose over 100 ft, and we still have coral reefs and polar bears. Get a life, it ain’t real. “Scientific concensus” on AWG, what a crock of crap.

  19. If you think John Mackey has done harm here in some way (and I do…), just vote with your dollars and shop somewhere else… Seems a simple choice to me.

    It’s pointless to argue about climate change here. We aren’t going to convert those who hold their strong opinions, one way or t’other. The only answer is for each to critically examine her or his views and remain open to the evidence as it’s presented. I have little hope that will occur among those who’ve regressed to the arrogance of their certainty, regardless of side, but there’s no other solution for individual enlightenment in the discussion.

    On a happier note, know that the earth doesn’t give a hoot about how all this works out: http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20427281.300-posthuman-earth-how-the-planet-will-recover-from-us.html

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