Whole Foods Ratings Systems

Matt Hickman at the Mother Nature network asks the question: “Whole Foods Market unveils a rating system for household cleaning products sold in its stores. But is additional transparency really necessary in a store that already only carries natural products?” 

My answer, unequivocally? YES.

This is one of the things, in fact, I admire most about Whole Foods.  They are one of the most transparent companies I have ever come across with regards to exactly where on the continuum of health-sustainability-compassion any given products fall.  They have their minimum standards, those one can be assured any product meets,  and then they are open and clear about what extent of better-than-the-minimum any other product achieves.

The key here, and the one I wish more businesses, bloggers (Are you listening, Mr. Hickman?), and individuals could embrace, is that sustainability is all, always, on a continuum. Efforts to draw a nice neat line and say, okay, everything on this side of the line is idyllic and healthy and full of earth-awesomeness, and everything on the other side is of the Dark Side of the Force. Here we have Yoda; there we have Darth Monsanto.  We are all in process, and everyone’s place on the continuum will vary based on where they live, what their general lifestyle is about, when they started to even pay attention to all this stuff–it’s all about the baby steps and the growth. Machines, factory farming, and genetic engineering are what give us predictable and quick outcomes with uniform results; organic and whole food process take a little longer and are overall better for everyone. Is it surprising that the move to human approach to sustainability will mirror that reality?

So: I encourage everyone to check out Whole Foods’ rating scales for their household cleaning products. I urge you to pay attention to their rating scale for the sustainability of their meat products. I had a wonderful conversation with an employee shortly after the meat rating system came out, where she herself acknowledged that the store was so far only able to sell poultry that rated a “level 2” on the scale but that they were looking for a supplier who could get them to a 3 or a 4…and that their beef so far was only a 4 but they have a supplier who may be able to give them level 5 or 5+ in the near future…it’s the continuum. And when a store like Whole Foods can clearly articulate and place themselves on that continuum, I think it’s a really good example for all of us.

Okay, yeah, I know their nickname of “Whole Paycheck” is sort of well-earned in some ways…but we manage. We manage just fine. And if we pay attention to what things cost, a lot of stuff is fairly close to what Trader Joe’s prices their stuff at, so it’s not too bad…

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Posted on May 4, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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