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Whole Foods CEO says business is ‘under attack’

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, spoke at a Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce event.

Charlie Mahoney for the Boston Globe

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, spoke at a Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce event.

Whole Foods Market co-chief executive John Mackey, known for his outspoken style, says business in the US is “under attack.”

Speaking at a Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce breakfast Thursday, Mackey said businesses are often unfairly maligned.

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“The latest Gallup poll shows big business enjoys only a 19 percent approval rating,” he told an audience at the Seaport World Trade Center. “Yet business is fundamentally good and has created more value in the world than any other institution.”

Mackey, 59, is on a national tour to promote his first book, “Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business.” He was joined by his co-author Raj Sisodia, a professor of marketing at Bentley University in Waltham and the co-founder of the nonprofit Conscious Capitalism Institute.

The book makes a case for the “inherent good of capitalism,” and pushes for a new age of leadership and higher purpose in the business world.

“If we allow it, I have no doubt capitalism will wipe out poverty and illiteracy,” Mackey said. “Humanity has been lifted up by business and yet it has been completely hijacked by its enemies who create a narrative that business is selfish, and greedy, and exploitative.”

For its most recent fiscal year, Texas-based Whole Foods Market Inc. reported that sales rose 16 percent to $11.7 billion.

Whole Foods operates roughly 350 stores, including 21 in Massachusetts, the chain said in a press release.

In November, Whole Foods bought leases for six Johnnie’s Foodmaster grocery locations, with plans to remodel the stores and reopen them as Whole Foods some time later this year, probably in the fall. Those locations are in Arlington, Brookline, Charlestown, Melrose, South Weymouth, and Somerville.

Whole Foods is also looking to open two more Massachusetts locations at some point this year, one in Lynnfield, the other in Hyannis.

Alyssa Edes can be reached at alyssa.edes@globe.com.
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