John Mackey, co-founder and co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, spoke to more than 2,000 people at the Lied Center for Performing Arts as the inaugural speaker for the Lewis E. Harris Lecture Series sponsored by the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Business Administration and College of Law on Wednesday, October 3. Mackey, who authored the New York Times
and Wall Street Journal
best-selling book, “Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business,” stressed the value of business to the audience, made up of a vast number of business students and members of the CBA community.
“Business is the greatest value creator in the world,” said Mackey. “It creates far more value than all governments and non-profits put together. It is business and the unleashing of the entrepreneurial spirit that enables humanity to make great progress.”
Mackey believes business people get a bad rap in the view of public opinion, ranking only above the U.S. Congress in some polls. He emphasized the ethical nature of business.
“Business is ethical because it does not force people to make exchanges,” he said. “People trade with business voluntarily for their own gain because they believe the trade will make them better off. That is what makes business fundamentally ethical because it does not use coercion.”
He also discussed the essence of his book, which promotes a change in the conscious awareness of people who run businesses. He sees a win-win for every person interacting with business when those involved are committed to more than the bottom-line.
“We are becoming more conscious as a species. We understand better the consequences of our actions. We understand we have greater commitment to truth. We have stronger sensitivity to those marginalized or exploited. We are conscious of so much more than people were even 30 years ago,” he said.
To change to a more conscious approach, Mackey wants to see a shift in the way people think about business. He stresses purposeful motives and actions.
“Businesses need to evolve from thinking about maximizing profits to thinking about maximizing purpose. Doctors heal people. Teachers teach people. Architects design buildings. Every profession refers back to some type of social good or value creation, yet business is perceived as only being interested in making money. The companies most admired are the ones with a great purpose,” he said.
Dr. Donde Plowman, James Jr. and Susan Stuart Endowed Dean of the College of Business Administration, introduced Mackey. She expressed her gratitude for the new speaker series.
“I want to thank the Harris family who helped make this possible,” said Plowman. “The lecture series is designed to bring international business experts to our campus to engage students, faculty and business community members. This series will become an ongoing discussion and examination of major policy issues that affect the relationship between business and community, and business and government in today’s economy.”
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