Wholesome Values, Wholesome Food: Paper 2

After reading the article about Whole Foods, I think I’m going to find a way to write paper 2 about Whole Foods through the lens of one or two of the ethical viewpoints. Here’s what I know so far. Since it’s beginning, Whole Foods has been trying to bring fresh organic food to their customers. Although this is a noble cause, it comes at a price. The food is more expensive, but it is all from organic farms and the animals used for food are treated with respect. Everything they do comes back to their 5 core values that all relate to natural ingredients, customer experience, environmentalism, and value creation via expansion. Whole Foods is well known for paying their executives very low salaries as a statement on fair wages. The Whole Foods approach to groceries was and still is ahead of its time and now other grocers are following suit. I could analyze how ethically sound Whole Foods is through a variety of their practices. I’m not sure if I should look at one of their practices or talk about a few of the more important ones, but I plan on analyzing their practices through an ethical lens.


I think it makes the most sense to approach Whole Foods through the sustainability ethics lens, as Whole Foods is attacking issues that tie directly to sustainable and ethical food practices. Obviously, Whole Foods is ethically sound as opposed to ethically unsound when it comes to sustainability. I’m going to focus my research on the origins of ethical food practices specifically within Whole Foods and how their work has influenced the entire industry to work at a higher standard. How has Whole Foods helped changed the norms for grocery stores? How will Whole Foods potentially influence the future of the food industry? Although these ideas aren’t fully focused yet, at this stage I am sifting through numerous sources to seek some more focus later down the line. I think it would be cool to somehow connect Whole Foods to the changes in the food industry as a whole. How have companies like Whole Foods pushed others to be better? I’m searching with keywords such as, ethics, standards, organic, farming, sustainable and many more.


The main policy the paper will be linked to will be the food laws set out by the FDA. I will try to delve into to discrepancy between the standards of the FDA and the standards of Whole Foods. I could also talk about their compensation practices as it ties into Whole Food’s employee satisfaction. I think the better route would be to talk about FDA standards, but I’m sure other relevant information regarding their employee treatment could bolster my argument.


Sources so far

Google Scholar- The citizen-consumer hybrid: ideological tensions and the case of Whole Foods Market – Johnston


Google Scholar- Reflexivity and the Whole Foods Market consumer: the lived experience of shopping for change , Johnston


Addressing sustainability: a strategy development framework- Galbreath


4 thoughts on “Wholesome Values, Wholesome Food: Paper 2

  1. I think that sustainability ethics ties really nicely into what you are trying to discuss within your paper. Like you mentioned I think that talking about the standards of both the FDA and Whole Foods could be interesting, as Whole Foods certainly seems to have higher standards than the FDA. I wonder if types of stores like Whole Foods will become the norm in the future, or if they will only ever fill a niche market.


  2. You may want to look for work by Alex Nicholls about Fair Trade as a framework for either paper.

    My memory when the FDA set organic standards was that it favored big firms. I’ll bet you can dig this up to see what were policy options for different sets of rules.

    I think the sustainability ethical lens makes sense. A core issue you identify is if organic food, as the approach to “saving the world” can work if organic is only ever a signal for price premiums.


  3. Do you like the Johnston article? The abstract shows it will ultimately be critical of the citizen-consumer hybrid. That may be more for policy paper. But you can use it for ethics by setting it up as a CRITIQUE of WF. The ethical core will have to be defining what are the criteria for sustainability as ethics. You may need to keep looking.


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