Experts Criticize Whole Foods, CEO For Link to Spiritual Leader, Former Rabbi with “Troubled Past”

 

On December 25, 2015, The New York Times reported Whole Foods co-founder and co-CEO John Mackey’s affiliation with spiritual leader, former rabbi Marc Gafni: “A co-founder of Whole Foods, John Mackey, a proponent of conscious capitalism, calls Mr. Gafni ‘a bold visionary.’ He is a chairman of the executive board of Mr. Gafni’s center, and he hosts board meetings at his Texas ranch.” And of one of his accusers, “He [Gafni] added, ‘She was 14 going on 35, and I never forced her.'”

More than 100 rabbis authored a petition demanding that Whole Foods sever ties with Gafni. Sara Kabakov came forward publicly for the first time in an opinion piece in The Forward: “I Was 13 When Marc Gafni’s Abuse Began.”

Mackey’s public statement, posted on his Whole Foods blog, says his affiliation with Gafni is “strictly a personal relationship.” His post includes a link to Gafni’s website and their seven-part video dialogue. A spokesperson for Whole Foods emailed: “John no longer serves on Mr. Gafni’s board and has no connection to the Center for Integral Wisdom. That being said, there’s nothing else to say on this matter.”

Since The Times story broke, Mackey has been widely criticized by experts in business, academia, and survivors advocacy work.

COMMENTS:

Jo-Ellen Pozner, faculty, U.C. Berkeley Haas School of Business:

“My take on this situation, in a nutshell, is that corporate leaders are showing a real lack of judgment in endorsing somebody with a tainted reputation of this particular sort. Not only does it show a disregard for important groups of stakeholders, it reveals a bit of hubris and tone-deafness. I think these sorts of associations are bad publicity, and reveal a blind spot which makes me question managerial judgment.”

Brad Hecht, Vice President and Chief Research Officer, Reputation Institute:

“As the founder of, primary spokesman for, and emotional leader of Whole Foods Market, John Mackey has a responsibility to immediately and directly address this issue. Whether he is willing to admit it or not, Mackey’s personal actions and associations will have a direct impact on the reputation of Whole Foods Market, and therefore the willingness of customers to support the company he leads.”

Peter Laughter, co-chair, New York City Chapter, Conscious Capitalism, Inc.:

“I believe that Marc Gafni’s admitted sexual liaison with a 13-year-old girl is reprehensible. Although Gafni has no connection to Conscious Capitalism, as a volunteer in the community, I am discouraged by John Mackey’s affiliation with Gafni’s organization. It is my hope that John reconsider this stance as he is a respected and representative thought leader in the Conscious Capitalism movement.”

Business Ethics Magazine, Spotlight on Whole Foods CEO’s Ties to ‘Spiritual Leader with Troubled Past’:

“If WFM’s board accepts that there is a firewall protecting the company from adverse attention in Mackey’s relationship with Gafni, as well as that the relationship is ‘in the company’s best interests,’ they shoulder accountability to stakeholders if they are wrong.”

Michael MessnerProfessor of Sociology and Gender Studies, University of Southern California, and co-author of Some Men: Feminist Allies and the Movement to End Violence Against Women

“There is a growing chorus of younger men today who denounce sexual violence against women.  But voiced opinions are one thing, and actions yet another.  Too often still, when men’s vested interests are at stake–be they in the corporate board room, the frat house or the locker room–otherwise ‘good men’ maintain a culture of silence that helps to perpetuate violence against women.”

Cary Krosinsky, Lecturer, Yale University:

“I think in a case like this, it should be the obligation of all investors to hold the companies they own to a minimum standard behavior.”

Nonprofit Quarterly, The Whole Mess at Whole Foods:

“Just like the hypocrisy of Bill Cosby’s moralizing about black respectability and Jared Fogle’s trying to help childhood obesity, Marc Gafni’s views and new age spirituality look very much like an attempt to overshadow the pain he has caused by letting the world know what a ‘profoundly good person’ he is. John Mackey is compounding this hypocrisy and bringing Whole Foods with him.”

Edward L. Queen, Director, Ethics and Servant Leadership Program, Center for Ethics, Emory University:

“I do think the CEO of Whole Foods has managed this horribly. He hasn’t demonstrated publicly the deep thoughtfulness of response these allegations warrant. There is a complete denial of human agency and responsibility.”

James AbruzzoCo-director, Institute for Ethical Leadership, Rutgers Business School:

“Sometimes the appearance of impropriety is itself improper.  As a person whose name, ideals and personal mission contribute to the brand value of a public company, Mackey’s responsibility to Whole Foods’ shareholders should outweigh any personal predilections.”

Sreedhari Desai, faculty, University of North Carolina, Kenan-Flagler Business School:

“We expect our leaders to personify their organizations’ values and when their behavior strikes a discordant note, we expect answers. I find it hard to believe that John Mackey isn’t concerned about this issue, but he needs to find a way to demonstrate his values in this arena, especially given the public’s growing awareness of the importance of speaking up.”

James McRitchie, Publisher, CorpGov.net:

“Mr. Mackey has a fiduciary duty to WFM shareholders. His affiliation with Gafni and the center certainly put the reputation and value of WFM at risk.” 

The Scripps Voice, Whole Foods Fails Abuse Survivors:

“Both Mackey’s actions and words up to this point have illustrated his blatant disregard for the safety and well being of Gafni’s victims. His notion of exclusive personal acquaintanceship holds very little truth and illustrates his calculated attempt to distance himself as one of Gafni’s business partners.”

Myka N. Held, Esq.Staff Attorney, SurvJustice:

“Given the dismal rates of prosecution of rapists, and the fact that even rapists who are prosecuted are not always convicted or appropriately punished, we cannot use the wide-spread failure of the criminal justice system as an excuse to let offenders off the hook. Marc Gafni has publicly admitted to having sex with a 13 year old girl while he was an adult. His attempts to shift blame to his young victim, stating that she was “14 going on 35″ are despicable and show both his lack of remorse for his crime and his inability to recognize the seriousness of his crime. For these reasons alone it is important for us as a society to hold him accountable, and part of the mechanisms for doing so require us to demand that his powerful friends end their support.”

Melissa Agnes, President and co-founder Agnes + Day, a crisis management firm:

“So with a disgraceful statement directly from the alleged offender, and with news articles affiliating the Whole Foods name with this scandal, along with a petition pleading with the organization to sever their ties with Gafni, what was Whole Foods to do? Organizations need to start waking up to the realities of today. The world has changed and the longer they wait to adapt, the worse it is for their business.”

David Clohessy, Executive Director of SNAP, made this statement in a separate press release issued by SNAP:

“We hope it’s true that CEO Mackey’s distancing himself from Gafni. If so, however, we disagree with the public relations staffer who claims ‘there’s nothing else to say on this matter.’ Mackey should apologize for his callousness and publicly announce his resignation from the board. And since Mackey’s involvement in Gafni’s center has been hurtful to those who were assaulted by Gafni, we hope Mackey takes clear, public and effective steps to ameliorate their suffering and to contribute to a climate that welcomes and encourages victims of sexual violence to speak up, rather than a climate that depresses and deters them. If you’ve hurt people, distancing yourself from a wrongdoer isn’t enough. You have a moral duty to do more. We hope to see tangible helpful action by Mackey very soon to lessen the harm he has caused by his irresponsible affiliation with and support for an admitted sex offender.”

Bill Murray, Founder and CEO of NAASCA (National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse):

“Whole Foods’ public statement, ‘there’s nothing else to say on this matter’ is tantamount to collusion with a known sexual predator. As a community, we need to bring light into the shadows of the oft taboo issues of child sexual abuse; to stop the silence and change the culture. On the other hand, John Mackey and the Whole Foods Market Board of Directors have an opportunity here to impress the masses they’d like to reach with the Whole Foods 365 launch. Instead of stepping out of this discussion they should publicly step up to the plate by taking a responsible corporate stand against child sexual abuse as soon as possible.”

Matthew Sandusky, Founder and Executive Director, Peaceful Hearts Foundation:

“Whole Foods’ public statement, ‘there’s nothing else to say on this matter’ could not be more incorrect. For far too long we have allowed child sex abuse to remain in the shadows of silence. Marc Gafni has admitted to raping a child, yet Whole Foods and John Mackey continue to promote their connection with the known child sex offender. Perpetrators groom their victims into silence and society has reinforced that silence. John Mackey and the Whole Foods Market Board of Directors have an opportunity to reach millions with an important message. Instead of maintaining the societal norm of silence around these issues, I would like to see them take a stand against child sexual abuse publicly — take a leadership role in getting the message across that we can no longer remain silent.”

Advocacy groups SNAP, NAASCA, and Peaceful Hearts Foundation are leading a protest at Whole Foods 365 Opening, May 25 in Los Angeles.

PROTEST INVITATION

Time: Wednesday, May 25, 10am – 3pm

Place: Whole Foods 365:  2520 Glendale Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90039 Map It

Experts Criticize Whole Foods, CEO For Link to Spiritual Leader, Former Rabbi with “Troubled Past”

Abuse Groups to Protest at Whole Foods 365 Launch in LA

New York Times reported Whole Foods CEO link to spiritual leader, former rabbi with “troubled past”

LOS ANGELES, CA  —  National advocacy organizations for raising awareness of childhood sexual abuse issues are backing a protest at the inaugural opening of Whole Foods 365 store, May 25 in Los Angeles. Planning is underway for a coordinated protest at a Whole Foods store in New York City.

The protests are in response to Whole Foods co-founder and co-CEO John Mackey’s link to spiritual leader Marc Gafni, a former rabbi with a “troubled past,” as reported by The New York Times in December.

Advocacy groups SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests), NAASCA (National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse), and Peaceful Hearts Foundation (founded by Matthew Sandusky) are supporting the protest.

On December 25, 2015, The New York Times reported Mackey’s affiliation with Gafni, and the controversy surrounding the former rabbi: “A co-founder of Whole Foods, John Mackey, a proponent of conscious capitalism, calls Mr. Gafni ‘a bold visionary.’ He is a chairman of the executive board of Mr. Gafni’s center, and he hosts board meetings at his Texas ranch.” And of one of his accusers, “He [Gafni] added, ‘She was 14 going on 35, and I never forced her.'”

More than 100 rabbis authored a petition demanding that Whole Foods sever ties with Gafni. Sara Kabakov came forward publicly for the first time in an opinion piece in The Forward: “I Was 13 When Marc Gafni’s Abuse Began.” New York Rabbi David Ingber, lead author of the petition, emailed that planning is underway for a coordinated protest at Whole Foods’ Upper West Side location in New York City.

Mackey’s public statement, posted on his Whole Foods blog, says his affiliation with Gafni is “strictly a personal relationship.” His post includes a link to Gafni’s website and their seven-part video dialogue. Since The Times story broke, Mackey has been widely criticized by experts in business, academia, and survivors’ advocacy work

According to a post on Gafni’s Center for Integral Wisdom site, Mackey’s term as board co-chair ended in March. The Forward reported: “A spokesman for Gafni said that Mackey had also left the board, ‘as all previous board chair members do.’ He added that, ‘There was no break between Mackey and Gafni.'”

A spokesperson for Whole Foods emailed: “John no longer serves on Mr. Gafni’s board and has no connection to the Center for Integral Wisdom. That being said, there’s nothing else to say on this matter.”

But leaders of advocacy organizations have voiced stern disagreement with Whole Foods’ statement, “there’s nothing else to say.”

David Clohessy, Executive Director of SNAP, from their press release (SNAP gained prominence on Oscar® night when actor Mark Ruffalo, director Tom McCarthy and and screenwriter Josh Singer of the Spotlight movie joined SNAP’s protest against sexual abuse in the Catholic Church):

“We hope it’s true that CEO Mackey is distancing himself from Gafni. If so, however, we disagree with the public relations staffer who claims ‘there’s nothing else to say on this matter.’ We hope Mackey takes clear, public and effective steps to ameliorate suffering and to contribute to a climate that welcomes and encourages victims of sexual violence to speak up, rather than a climate that depresses and deters them. If you’ve hurt people, distancing yourself from a wrongdoer isn’t enough. You have a moral duty to do more. We hope to see tangible helpful action by Mackey very soon to lessen the harm he has caused by his irresponsible affiliation with and support for an admitted sex offender.”

Bill Murray, Founder and CEO of NAASCA:

“As a community, we need to bring light into the shadows of the taboo issues of child sexual abuse — we must expose institutional enabling to stop the silence and change the culture. John Mackey and the Whole Foods Market Board of Directors have an opportunity here to impress the masses they’d like to reach with the Whole Foods 365 launch. Instead of stepping out of this discussion they should publicly step up to the plate by taking a responsible corporate stand against child sexual abuse as soon as possible.”

Matthew Sandusky, Founder and Executive Director, Peaceful Hearts Foundation:

“Whole Foods’ public statement, ‘there’s nothing else to say on this matter’ could not be more incorrect. JohnMackey and the Whole Foods Market Board of Directors have an opportunity to reach millions with an important message. Instead of maintaining the societal norm of silence around these issues, I would like to see them take a stand against child sexual abuse publicly — to take a leadership role in getting the message across that we can no longer remain silent.”

SNAP, NAASCA, and Peaceful Hearts Foundation are independent 501(c)(3) organizations.

PROTEST INVITATION

Time: Wednesday, May 25, 10am – 3pm

Place: Whole Foods 365:  2520 Glendale Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90039 Map It

###

 

Press Release on Newswire

Abuse Groups to Protest at Whole Foods 365 Launch in LA

Why it’s important for Whole Foods co-CEO John Mackey to speak up about the Marc Gafni situation

Updated May 22, 2016

I am a survivor of teenage sexual abuse and an advocate for changing the culture of silence.

I have been writing, garnering experts’ opinions, and urging Whole Foods co-CEO John Mackey to speak up about his relationship with controversial spiritual leader and former rabbi Marc Gafni, as reported by The New York Times on December 25, 2015:

“A co-founder of Whole Foods, John Mackey, a proponent of conscious capitalism, calls Mr. Gafni ‘a bold visionary.’ He is a chairman of the executive board of Mr. Gafni’s center, and he hosts board meetings at his Texas ranch.”

And of one of his accusers, “He [Gafni] added, ‘She was 14 going on 35, and I never forced her.’”

In the wake of The Times story, more than 100 rabbis and Jewish leaders authored a petition, citing “the many, repeated and serious allegations, both public and private, former and recent,” and demanding that Whole Foods sever ties with Gafni. Sara Kabakov came forward publicly for the first time in an opinion piece in the Forward: “I Was 13 When Marc Gafni’s Abuse Began.”

Mackey’s only statement, first posted on his Whole Foods blog December 29, says his connection with Gafni is “strictly a personal relationship.” Whole Foods has tweeted out essentially the same message. This screenshot from January 3 shows Mackey’s executive board profile on Gafni’s Center for Integral Wisdom website. The page was scrubbed from the site later in January.

John Mackey Exec BoD CIW

Mackey is also a board member of Conscious Capitalism, Inc. and co-founder of the movement. He was a keynote speaker at their annual conference in Chicago last month. In advance of his speech, I was messaging conference attendees, urging them to ask Mackey to speak up about his affiliation with Gafni.

A few days before Mackey’s speech, I received several scolding emails from Conscious Capitalism co-CEO Doug Rauch. He told me that Mackey had left Gafni’s board of directors. But I had not seen any public announcement.

I sent the tip to the Forward, which reported that Mackey’s board term had come to its conclusion: “A spokesman for Gafni said that Mackey had also left the board, ‘as all previous board chair members do.’ He added that, ‘There was no break between Mackey and Gafni.’”

I emailed Mackey, copying several members of Whole Foods’ board of directors, telling him protest planning was underway, and asking if he’d like to make a statement. A spokesperson for Whole Foods emailed: “John no longer serves on Mr. Gafni’s board and has no connection to the Center for Integral Wisdom. That being said, there’s nothing else to say on this matter.”

But leaders working to eradicate sexual abuse think Mackey needs to say much more. Coordinated protests are planned at Whole Foods in New York City, and at the highly anticipated launch of Whole Foods’ first 365 store in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles, May 25.

Rabbi David Ingber, founder and Spiritual Director, Romemu, and lead author of the petition:

“Next Wednesday, I will stand in solidarity with the innocent, underage victims of sexual abuse, and stand against those who support and cover-up that abuse. Young girls were abused by Marc Gafni, and Whole Foods CEO John Mackey and others like him have refused to distance themselves from Gafni, supporting him and providing cover for his predation.”

In an interview with the NY Daily News, Matthew Sandusky, Founder and Executive Director, Peaceful Hearts Foundation (and adopted son of convicted pedophile Jerry Sandusky), confirmed that he plans to join protesters at Whole Foods Market in NYC:

“Sandusky plans to attend a May 25 protest in Manhattan in support of two women who say they were sexually abused as teens by one-time rabbinical student Marc Gafni. ‘It’s obviously something I feel strongly, passionately about, to be there in person,’ Matt Sandusky said. ‘I love the opportunity to be there and help out.’”

Matthew Sandusky also said in a statement:

“Whole Foods’ public statement, ‘there’s nothing else to say on this matter’ could not be more incorrect.”

David Clohessy, Executive Director of SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, featured in the movie Spotlight), from the organization’s press release:

“Mackey should apologize for his callousness and publicly announce his resignation from [Gafni’s] board.”

Bill Murray, Founder and CEO of NAASCA (National Association for Adult Survivors of Child Abuse):

“We must expose institutional enabling to stop the silence and change the culture. Instead of stepping out of this discussion, Whole Foods should publicly step up to the plate by taking a responsible corporate stand against child sexual abuse as soon as possible.”

Survivor, author, and advocate Nikki DuBose wrote in HuffPost Los Angeles, “It’s no secret that survivors live in silence, and society has a responsibility to help end that.”

When I was 13, I wasn’t able to have a voice. But I have one now. Here are my emails to Rauch, in response to his upbraiding:

My intention is not to hurt nor attack Conscious Capitalism. My intention is to urge John Mackey to speak up. He happens to be keynoting at CC event. I have become friendly with Sara Kabakov, the then-girl who Gafni described as 14 going on 35. John’s silence hurts her. Hurts all survivors. His silent resignation is more silence. Silence is the problem.

I’m not against CC and have not disparaged the organization. But John is speaking at the CC conference. So he needs to be called out on his silence when he appears publicly. This is accountability, consequence. This is how culture change happens — when public awareness is raised. His silence is not a crime. It is destructive.

I like you. I am sorry you feel betrayed. I have nothing against CC. I have 100 rabbis and 3400 signees asking for John to speak up. As does pretty much everybody who supports culture change around sexual violence.  Honestly you should be yelling at him, not at me.

Also, your yelling at me will not silence me. All I’ve done is report facts and asked John to speak up. And I am asking others if they will ask him to please speak up. I have broken no agreements. This is speaking up, and how we break the culture of silence surrounding sexual violence.

There is no such thing as consensual sex with a 14-year old. A minor can not grant consent. Any discussion of consensuality is moot.

I am sorry that Conscious Capitalism is getting hurt because of John’s choices and his appearance at your conference. His silence — including his silent resignation — is hurtful. John is hurting Conscious Capitalism with his choices and behaviors. I am only shining light on the situation and asking questions. Because exposure and speaking up are the remedies.

***

PROTEST INVITATION LA

Date: Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Place: 365 by Whole Foods:  2520 Glendale Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90039 Map It

Hours: 10am – 3pm PT

PROTEST INVITATION NYC

Place: Whole Foods: 808 Columbus Avenue (at 97th Street), New York, NY 10025 Map It

Hours: 11am-2pm ET

Press Release on Newswire

Why it’s important for Whole Foods co-CEO John Mackey to speak up about the Marc Gafni situation

Whole Foods 365, millennials, and the alleged child sex abuser

On December 25, 2015, The New York Times reported Whole Foods co-CEO John Mackey’s affiliation with alleged child sex abuser, former rabbi Marc Gafni:

“He [Gafni] added, ‘She was 14 going on 35, and I never forced her.'”

“A co-founder of Whole Foods, John Mackey, a proponent of conscious capitalism, calls Mr. Gafni ‘a bold visionary.’ He is a chairman of the executive board of Mr. Gafni’s center, and he hosts board meetings at his Texas ranch.”

After The Times story broke, Mackey issued a statement on his Whole Foods blog, declaring his affiliation with Gafni “strictly a personal relationship.” His statement includes a link to Gafni’s site and their seven-part video conversation. A webpage for Gafni’s Success 3.0 Summit says the 2016 Summit “is being hosted by John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods.”

A group of more than 100 rabbis authored a petition, demanding that Whole Foods and Mackey sever ties with Gafni. Sara Kabakov was the girl Gafni described in The Times as “14 going on 35.” She came forward publicly for the first time in a first-person essay published in the Forward.

Mackey has been roundly criticized for his affiliation to Gafni by experts in business and academia, and by advocates for survivors of sexual abuse (see Comments section below).

Gafni’s nonprofit Center for Integral Wisdom website was scrubbed of all executive board members’ profiles in January. Here is a screenshot of Mackey’s board profile on Gafni’s CIW site from January 3, 2016.

 

Jill Tolles from the University of Nevada said in her TEDx talk, Finding Courage to Talk About Child Sexual Abuse:

“If silence is a predator’s best friend, and if shame and denial are the ingredients that help this epidemic to grow, then how can any of us stay silent? Maybe instead of just focusing on how uncomfortable this conversation is, we could focus on how this is an opportunity to have courage.”

 

Mackey was a keynote speaker at the Conscious Capitalism 2016 conference in Chicago on April 14. Mackey is a board member of Conscious Capitalism, Inc. and a co-founder of the movement.

According to an interview in Forbes with Mackey and Gafni about conscious capitalism, “the authors have been in dialogue for years now about interesting crossovers in their thinking.” In response to my inquiries tweeted to the Conscious Capitalism Twitter account, I was blocked from their account. Conscious Capitalism co-CEO Doug Rauch and Peter Laughter, co-chair of the New York City Chapter of Conscious Capitalism, have made public statements, repudiating Gafni (see Comments, below).

Rauch sent me several scolding emails after I tweeted this blog post to attendees of the Conscious Capitalism conference. I assured him in my email responses that my only intention was to encourage Mackey to break his silence; and why it is important for him to do so.

Update, 4/6/16: According to a report in the Forward, a spokesperson for Gafni said Mackey’s term as board chair had ended — he did not resign. The source also said, “There was no break between Mackey and Gafni.”

A protest is planned at the opening of  Whole Foods’ first 365 Store, its initiative to lure millennials, in Los Angeles on May 25. Whole Foods’ strategy for luring millennials to its new 365 chain: Be a “super cool hang.” Given the scope of media attention, and imperative to change the culture by speaking up about sexual abuse, will millennials find Mackey’s silence about his relationship with Gafni super uncool?

Update, 4/20/16: A spokesperson for Whole Foods Market emailed: “John no longer serves on Mr. Gafni’s  board and has no connection to the Center for Integral Wisdom. That being said, there’s nothing else to say on this matter.”

Leaders of organizations and advocates working to eradicate childhood sexual abuse have voiced stern disagreement.

David Clohessy, Executive Director, SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests) made this statement in a separate press release issued by SNAP. (The SNAP group gained prominence on Oscar night when actor Mark Ruffalo, director Tom McCarthy and and screenwriter Josh Singer of the Spotlight movie joined the SNAP Los Angeles protest against sexual abuse in the Catholic church):

“We hope it’s true that CEO Mackey’s distancing himself from Gafni. If so, however, we disagree with the public relations staffer who claims ‘there’s nothing else to say on this matter.’ Mackey should apologize for his callousness and publicly announce his resignation from the board. He should also remove the link to Gafni’s CIW site on his Whole Foods blog. And since Mackey’s involvement in Gafni’s center has been hurtful to those who were assaulted by Gafni, we hope Mackey takes clear, public and effective steps to ameliorate their suffering and to contribute to a climate that welcomes and encourages victims of sexual violence to speak up, rather than a climate that depresses and deters them.

If you’ve hurt people, distancing yourself from a wrongdoer isn’t enough. You have a moral duty to do more. We hope to see tangible helpful action by Mackey very soon to lessen the harm he has caused by his irresponsible affiliation with and support for an admitted sex offender.”

Bill Murray, CEO and founder of NAASCA, emailed:

“John Mackey is oddly silent about his relationship with Marc Gafni, an admitted child sex abuser, yet continues to openly celebrate their close connection through multiple links and references on the official Whole Foods website and blog. This is tantamount to institutional enabling. In much the same way, officials at Penn State continued to deny the issues they faced with Jerry Sandusky on their campus far beyond the point at which they could have salvaged the sterling reputation of their university. As a community we need to bring light into the shadows of the oft taboo issues of child sexual abuse; to stop the silence and change the culture.

Whole Foods’ public statement, ‘there’s nothing else to say on this matter’ is tantamount to collusion with a known sexual predator. On the other hand, John Mackey and the Whole Foods Board of Directors have an opportunity here to impress the masses they’d like to reach with the Whole Foods 365 launch. Instead of stepping out of this discussion they should publicly step up to the plate by taking a responsible corporate stand against child sexual abuse as soon as possible.”

PROTEST INVITATION

Time: Wednesday, May 25, 10am – 3pm

Place: Whole Foods 365:  2520 Glendale Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90039 Map It

Comments:

Jo-Ellen Pozner, faculty, U.C. Berkeley Haas School of Business:

“My take on this situation, in a nutshell, is that corporate leaders are showing a real lack of judgment in endorsing somebody with a tainted reputation of this particular sort. Not only does it show a disregard for important groups of stakeholders, it reveals a bit of hubris and tone-deafness. I think these sorts of associations are bad publicity, and reveal a blind spot which makes me question managerial judgment.”

Brad Hecht, Vice President and Chief Research Officer, Reputation Institute:

“As the founder of, primary spokesman for, and emotional leader of Whole Foods Market, John Mackey has a responsibility to immediately and directly address this issue. Whether he is willing to admit it or not, Mackey’s personal actions and associations will have a direct impact on the reputation of Whole Foods Market, and therefore the willingness of customers to support the company he leads.”

Peter Laughter, co-chair, New York City Chapter, Conscious Capitalism, Inc.:

“I believe that Marc Gafni’s admitted sexual liaison with a 13-year-old girl is reprehensible. Although Gafni has no connection to Conscious Capitalism, as a volunteer in the community, I am discouraged by John Mackey’s affiliation with Gafni’s organization. It is my hope that John reconsider this stance as he is a respected and representative thought leader in the Conscious Capitalism movement.”

Doug Rauch, co-CEO, Conscious Capitalism, Inc.:

“Conscious Capitalism has no professional association with Marc Gafni or the Center for Integral Wisdom and does not promote either in any way.  Conscious Capitalism does not condone, support or in any way remain silent on issues of sexual assault, harassment or abuse.  We are unequivocal that any type of abuse or assault is unacceptable, and we support a culture of open transparency, care and integrity in all personal interactions.”

Business Ethics Magazine, Spotlight on Whole Foods CEO’s Ties to ‘Spiritual Leader with Troubled Past’:

“If WFM’s board accepts that there is a firewall protecting the company from adverse attention in Mackey’s relationship with Gafni, as well as that the relationship is ‘in the company’s best interests,’ they shoulder accountability to stakeholders if they are wrong.”

Michael MessnerProfessor of Sociology and Gender Studies, University of Southern California, and co-author of Some Men: Feminist Allies and the Movement to End Violence Against Women

“There is a growing chorus of younger men today who denounce sexual violence against women.  But voiced opinions are one thing, and actions yet another.  Too often still, when men’s vested interests are at stake–be they in the corporate board room, the frat house or the locker room–otherwise ‘good men’ maintain a culture of silence that helps to perpetuate violence against women.”

Cary Krosinsky, Lecturer, Yale University:

“I think in a case like this, it should be the obligation of all investors to hold the companies they own to a minimum standard behavior.”

Nonprofit Quarterly, The Whole Mess at Whole Foods:

“Just like the hypocrisy of Bill Cosby’s moralizing about black respectability and Jared Fogle’s trying to help childhood obesity, Marc Gafni’s views and new age spirituality look very much like an attempt to overshadow the pain he has caused by letting the world know what a ‘profoundly good person’ he is. John Mackey is compounding this hypocrisy and bringing Whole Foods with him.”

Edward L. Queen, Director, Ethics and Servant Leadership Program, Center for Ethics, Emory University:

“I do think the CEO of Whole Foods has managed this horribly. He hasn’t demonstrated publicly the deep thoughtfulness of response these allegations warrant. There is a complete denial of human agency and responsibility.”

James AbruzzoCo-director, Institute for Ethical Leadership, Rutgers Business School:

“Sometimes the appearance of impropriety is itself improper.  As a person whose name, ideals and personal mission contribute to the brand value of a public company, Mackey’s responsibility to Whole Foods’ shareholders should outweigh any personal predilections.”

Sreedhari Desai, faculty, University of North Carolina, Kenan-Flagler Business School:

“We expect our leaders to personify their organizations’ values and when their behavior strikes a discordant note, we expect answers. I find it hard to believe that John Mackey isn’t concerned about this issue, but he needs to find a way to demonstrate his values in this arena, especially given the public’s growing awareness of the importance of speaking up.”

James McRitchie, Publisher, CorpGov.net:

“Mr. Mackey has a fiduciary duty to WFM shareholders. His affiliation with Gafni and the center certainly put the reputation and value of WFM at risk.” 

The Scripps Voice, Whole Foods Fails Abuse Survivors:

“Both Mackey’s actions and words up to this point have illustrated his blatant disregard for the safety and well being of Gafni’s victims. His notion of exclusive personal acquaintanceship holds very little truth and illustrates his calculated attempt to distance himself as one of Gafni’s business partners.”

David Clohessy, Executive Director, SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests):

“At first glance, the movie Spotlight is about clergy sex crimes and cover-ups in Boston. But a troubling and accurate sub-text throughout the film is that any number of people were alerted to the crisis but chose, for various reasons, not to pursue it. I hope Whole Foods co-founder and co-CEO John Mackey sees the movie and recognizes it as a call to action.”

Myka N. Held, Esq.Staff Attorney, SurvJustice:

“Given the dismal rates of prosecution of rapists, and the fact that even rapists who are prosecuted are not always convicted or appropriately punished, we cannot use the wide-spread failure of the criminal justice system as an excuse to let offenders off the hook. Marc Gafni has publicly admitted to having sex with a 13 year old girl while he was an adult. His attempts to shift blame to his young victim, stating that she was “14 going on 35″ are despicable and show both his lack of remorse for his crime and his inability to recognize the seriousness of his crime. For these reasons alone it is important for us as a society to hold him accountable, and part of the mechanisms for doing so require us to demand that his powerful friends end their support.”

Melissa Agnes, President and co-founder Agnes + Day, a crisis management firm:

“So with a disgraceful statement directly from the alleged offender, and with news articles affiliating the Whole Foods name with this scandal, along with a petition pleading with the organization to sever their ties with Gafni, what was Whole Foods to do? Organizations need to start waking up to the realities of today. The world has changed and the longer they wait to adapt, the worse it is for their business.”

Whole Foods 365, millennials, and the alleged child sex abuser