First off, relax! I'm not going to get all mushy on you, because that's just not my style. I've cried enough that I don't have any emotions left other than sarcasm -- that's what comes with being a Detroit Lions fan my entire life.
However, when it comes to investing, it pays to note where people's compassions lie, because love will usually outweigh all other emotions (and occasionally your better judgment). I know that may sound horribly cliche, but think about what you wouldn't do for your family, your friends, your pets, or members of your community to make them be happy, feel good, or live longer. Despite those rare cases you see profiled on America's Most Wanted, the majority of us are good-hearted people striving to make a difference not only in our own lives, but in the lives of those around us.
It's for this reason that I propose we look at five companies today that lead with their hearts and leave the health of their business up to the compassion of others.
Whole Foods Market and Kroger
What? A pair of grocery stores that lead with their hearts? You're probably rolling your eyes and thinking about how you had to pay an extra $0.45 for that gallon of milk this week and cursing that grocery store for every extra cent they took. But let's look at this from a completely different angle...
Did you know that Kroger
The same thing can be said for Whole Foods
As a pet owner, let me tell you that there's little I wouldn't do or pay to ensure the health of my pets. According to the American Pet Products Association, 62% of all households (or 72.9 million) currently own a pet -- and that trend has only been on the rise. If you do own a pet, I encourage you to look around your home and note just how many different pet toys, treats, foods, and beds are laying around. My guess is that it'll be quite a lot.
Our pets have made the transition over the past couple of decades from just being pets to being "part of the family," and PetSmart
Merck and Pfizer
I may rip into big pharmaceutical companies all the time due to their never-ending battle against patent expirations, but if there's one thing that cannot be questioned with regard to Merck
Pfizer's cash donations of $56.4 million in 2011 might cause some resentment among consumers given that it brought in $12.8 billion in pre-tax income. Looking at the bigger picture, though, Pfizer was the largest product donator of any publicly traded company, giving away $3 billion (yes, with a "b") in drugs and other products to help fight disease around the world. I dare you to plug "Pfizer donates" into Google search -- you will get more than 1 million results, describing multiple different drugs of varying costs being donated to countries worldwide. Pfizer is clearly making enough to pay its bills, but it's also making a valiant attempt to help those less fortunate who can't afford its life-saving medications.
Merck also shares this mission, handing over close to $1.3 billion in cash and products last year. Like Pfizer, its donated cash amount of $72.6 million was just shy of 1% of total pre-tax income, but through its Merck Medical Outreach Program and U.S. Patient Assistance Program, the company is both providing the treatments needed by the less fortunate and helping get those treatments to their destinations.
It all starts with compassion
Over the years, we've heard countless ways to evaluate the merits of a company, from the quality of its earnings to the trend of the industry to even the tenure of management. While all of these are meaningful, they fail to factor in a company's compassion and the people striving to make a difference in the lives of others.
Some say love is a beautiful thing -- I say it may be powerful enough that you might actually be able to bank on it!
What do you think? Is a compassionate company important to your investing strategy? Share your thoughts with your fellow Fools in the comments section below.
Can Whole Foods thrive even as its input costs continue to skyrocket? Find out the answer to this question and more by getting your copy of our latest premium research report on Whole Foods. This report outlines in depth the opportunities and pitfalls that could move Whole Foods' share price, and comes complete with one year of regular updates. Click here to get this report and claim your investing edge.
Fool contributor Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong.
The Motley Fool owns shares of Whole Foods. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Whole Foods and PetSmart. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy that puts investors first.