In an event co-hosted by Net Impact at Darden and the Darden 2014 Leadership Speaker Series, Whole Foods Co-CEO Walter Robb addressed a packed Abbott Center Auditorium on January 22nd. Robb credited IBiS Academic Director Ed Freeman, and his world-renowned concept of stakeholder theory, with helping to guide the mission, agenda, and goals of Whole Foods Markets. Robb focused his remarks on ”elevating the community stakeholder,” describing the people and institutions external to a business as some of the most important but most underappreciated of the stakeholder groups.
Through new initiatives such as Whole Cities, Whole Foods has begun to expand into neighborhoods where residents lack access to fresh food. Stores have opened in New Orleans’ 9th Ward, Chicago’s Southside, and Detroit’s Midtown. The Whole Cities initiative aims to create long-term value in these depressed areas by employing residents in stable jobs, by providing whole and healthy food options to those living and working in the city, and by encouraging other businesses to take root nearby. Robb stressed that with Whole Cities, Whole Foods is putting Freeman’s stakeholder theory into practice, measuring success by Whole Foods’ ability to improve the lives of all stakeholders.