Whole Foods Recognized for Micro-lending Operations

Whole Foods Market yesterday received the Natural Products Association’s “2009 Socially Responsible Retailer Award” for excellence in integrating social responsibility into multiple aspects of business.

“This award recognizes that our retailers are valued and integral parts of their communities, and that they provide much more than simply a place to purchase natural products,” said Natural Product Association president Debra Short. “All the award recipients are serious about being a source of support for their employees and their communities in environmental, social and educational efforts, and the work that Whole Foods Market and its foundation do are excellent examples of how dedication to local and global action can generate positive results.”

While there were several determining factors for selection, the work of the Austin, Texas-based retailer’s nonprofit Whole Planet Foundation was the primary reason that Whole Foods was chosen for the award.

“The Whole Planet Foundation represents an incredible expansion of Whole Foods Market’s mission to actively lend a helping hand to our global neighbors in communities that supply our stores with products,” says Philip Sansone, president and executive director of the Whole Planet Foundation. “Caring about our communities and our environment is one of our core values, so to be one of only three companies to receive a 2009 Socially Responsible Retailer Award is a tremendous honor.”

The other 2009 Socially Responsible Retailer Awards went to Ashland Food Cooperative of Ashland, Ore., for its Community Grants program, which awards yearly grants of up to $1,500 to local nonprofit organizations, and GreenAcres Market of Wichita, Kan., which sells no bleached, hydrogenated, fumigated, or irradiated products at its two stores in Wichita and Kansas City, Mo., and strives to avoid artificial flavors, sweeteners, colors, and chemical preservatives.

Established in October 2005, The Whole Planet Foundation seeks to empower the poor through micro-credit in developing countries where Whole Foods sources products. To date, the foundation has committed $9.9 million for micro-lending projects, and has provided $5.3 million in grants to microfinance groups around the globe, resulting in $13 million in microcredit loans -- usually less than $200 -- to start home-based businesses. The project has given more than 41,000 people the chance to lift themselves and, on average, five family members, out of poverty, effectively impacting a total of 205,000 people in communities in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Sansone accepted the award at the Natural Products Association’s annual trade show and convention in Las Vegas.
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