Cablegate: Costa Rican Nomination for the Secretary of State's Award


DE RUEHSJ #1131/01 1651212
R 141212Z JUN 07





E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: STATE 047222

1. Embassy San Jose is pleased to nominate Whole Foods Market for
the Secretary of State's Award for Corporate Excellence (ACE) in the
Multinational Enterprise (MNE) category (reftel). From its business
practices in U.S.-based and non-U.S.-based stores, to its
investments in its supply chain, Whole Foods Market has demonstrated
the highest level of corporate responsibility throughout its
history. Post nominates Whole Foods Market based on its
contributions to the economic and social growth of the Limon
Province of Costa Rica, its leadership in demonstrating responsible
environmental stewardship and practices, and its contribution to
local science and technology policies related to organic farming

2. Whole Foods Market is widely known for matching its "green"
philosophy with "green" actions. From selling organically grown
foods to purchasing solar and wind generated electricity, Whole
Foods Market regularly makes news as it implements a business
philosophy oriented toward sustainability and community citizenship
(Further details on Whole Foods Market's company philosophy can be
found at: sophy.html ).

3. The company has taken this same approach with its activities in
Costa Rica. Whole Foods Market sources organically grown bananas,
mangos, pineapples, and other products from farms in Costa Rica's
economically challenged Caribbean lowlands. The principle partner
of Whole Foods Market in Costa Rica is EARTH University, located in Limon province.
EARTH is a unique non-profit school where students from around the
world learn farming techniques that strike a balance between
agricultural production and environmental preservation. Whole Foods
Market began its partnership with EARTH in February 2005, which has
led to an increase in local knowledge and application of best
practices in growing organic produce. With input from Whole Foods,
Earth University uses low-impact, environmentally-friendly
agricultural techniques to grow and harvest world-class organic
bananas, mangos, and pineapples, and other foods for both domestic
consumption and export.

4. As part of this partnership, Whole Foods Market provides $100,000
of yearly funding and technical training to assist in EARTH
University's business development. Through this assistance, Whole
Foods Market has developed the various EARTH brand products and
helped them enter the U.S. market. Whole Foods Market further
develops the capacity of students at EARTH through an internship
program whereby students gain valuable experience and insights into
the global agricultural community. In the summer of 2007, Whole
Foods Market will announce a further development of its relationship
with EARTH as it begins a program to finance businesses of select
EARTH graduates with $300,000 per year. With this program, EARTH
graduates will be able to put what they have learned at EARTH into
practice and sell, if their products meet standards, their goods in
Whole Foods Market stores.

5. Whole Foods Market's actions in Costa Rica also extend to
improving the social and economic fabric of society as a whole. In
April 2006, Whole Foods Market began offering low-interest
micro-financing to women in the Limon province through its Whole
Planet Foundation. Through this effort, Whole Foods Market has
greatly contributed to the development of the economic and social
sectors of the Limon province. Limon is the poorest province in
Costa Rica, with an average household income of $275, which is $350
below the rest of the country. Limon has the highest unemployment
rate in Costa Rica as well as the highest drop-out rates in both
primary and secondary grades. In short, it is a province that has
long lagged behind the rest of Costa Rica. Over the last year and a
half, the Whole Planet Foundation has loaned $452,859 to 1,967
borrowers in the Limon province under the support of the Grameen
Trust of Bangladesh. The recipients, all women, have used this
money to fund agriculture projects, clothing manufacturing and
sales, small store operations, and restaurants. The total amount of
the three year grant is $1,481,000 to fund its micro-financing
program. Whole Foods Market ties this program into its other
activities with EARTH University by pairing EARTH students with loan
recipients to both advise and learn from the micro-entrepreneurs.

6. Whole Foods Market has since complemented this micro-loan effort
by implementing the Whole Trade Guarantee program which provides
shoppers a guarantee that the international products Whole Foods
offers from developing countries meet strict criteria to ensure
exceptional product quality, more money for producers, better wages
and working conditions for workers, and sound environmental
production practices that promote biodiversity. The bananas Whole
Foods purchases from EARTH University were the first product covered
by this guarantee. Under this program, Whole Foods contributes 1%
of the purchase price of every EARTH banana to the micro-loan
foundation detailed in paragraph 5.

7. These undertakings are not simple philanthropy, but rather the
exercise of market-based measures as Whole Foods Markets uses small,
directed loans at favorable interest rates to provide capitol for
small business growth. Through these means, over 1,900 women in the
Limon province have had the opportunity to exercise their
entrepreneurial skills. The fact that, to date, the program enjoys
a 99.5% loan repayment rate is measurable evidence that the women of
Limon have not simply received a handout, but rather the means to
develop their own capacities. Whole Foods Market made this

8. Whole Foods Market's activities in Costa Rica epitomize the very
best of the values that American citizens cherish. The
environmentally and socially conscious company has represented the
United States well in its actions in Costa Rica. There is not a
better example of a U.S. company that has invested in developing the
capacity of the people of Costa Rica in such a sustainable way.
Presenting Whole Foods Market with the Award for Corporate
Excellence for a Multinational Enterprise would recognize the
importance the USG places on the activities that Whole Foods is
pursuing in Costa Rica.


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