Walter Robb, Whole Foods Market – Hero of Conscious Capitalism
With a long and varied entrepreneurial history in natural foods ranging from retailer to farmer to consultant, Walter Robb joined Whole Foods Market in 1991 and in 2010, was named co-CEO along with John Mackey at which time he joined the Whole Foods Market Board of Directors. In 2017, Robb transitioned his leadership focus to his role as Chairman of the Board for Whole Kids Foundation and Whole Cities Foundation. Robb also serves on the Board of Directors for Union Square Hospitality Group, The Container Store and FoodMaven.
Growing up eating from his family’s organic garden, Robb continues to maintain his own garden and speaks with immense passion about the importance of good food in people’s lives. He has led by example, demonstrating that he means what he says about quality products and corporate responsibility. Under his administration, Whole Foods continually donated at least 5% of all annual profit to charity- before taxes to boot. He has also made sure that the business made regular contributions to food banks across the country to combat malnutrition and food deserts (areas of low-income areas with a low density of groceries stores).
Through his work at the Whole Kids Foundation, partnerships are formed with local schools and nutritional programs to provide kids access to salad bars, and to provide teachers and administrators cooking and nutritional information. In contrast, the Whole Cities Foundation works with local organizations in the community to improve food access, understanding of nutrition, and general food education. In addition, his support for the Whole Planet Foundation aims to improve the business opportunities and livelihoods of impoverished entrepreneurs throughout the developing world. This is done through providing over $73 million in microfinance loans to over 11.5 million people in 69 countries. These loans help people improve their lives and get small businesses off the ground.
When not working at Whole Foods or its various related nonprofits, Robb speaks to audiences about the importance of right eating and of serving others. Other topics he discusses are leadership, the importance of brand and culture, and the primacy of building a human organization. Robb is passionate about and knows that conscious capitalism is the future. As he said once when discussing his philosophy and his love of cooking, “Look in my eyes. This is why I do this work – I really believe in what we’re doing.”