Whole Foods CEO faces criticism over incentive program

5/3/2011

There’s a new incentive program for Whole Foods’ employees that is focused on making them model citizens of health and wellness for the retailer. John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, launched the program in January that would give an additional 10 per cent off in-store products (on top of the already existing 20 per cent discount) to employees if they met certain health requirements.

The voluntary program screens employees on cholesterol, blood pressure, body-mass index (BMI) and nicotine-free living. They are then categorized into bronze, silver, gold or platinum discount status. The bronze status (22 per cent discount) requires employees to have a cholesterol count less than 195, a blood pressure of 140/90, and a BMI of less than 30. For a full 30 per cent platinum discount, BMI must be less than 24. Smokers and those with a BMI of 30 or higher aren’t eligible for any discount.

The program has drawn criticism from human rights leaders who argue some health conditions can be hereditary or can’t be controlled due to disability. Also, some argue that the BMI isn’t always an accurate gauge for health. Mackey admitted that the indicators being used aren’t perfect and that they could be altered in the future.

This isn’t the first time the CEO has faced criticism. Last summer he wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal that was critical of government’s role in health care and called for more individual responsibility. This resulted in many of his liberal Whole Foods customers calling for a boycott of the chain.

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