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Why Whole Foods Is a Multipurpose Winner for Positive Portfolios

By Alyce Lomax – Oct 16, 2012 at 12:56PM

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A deal between Whole Foods and Method reminds us that purpose matters in our changing world; is your portfolio ready?

This article is part of our Real-Money Stock Picks series.

The real-money portfolio I manage for is positioning for a future in which positive purpose is just as essential as profit. In fact, both factors can go hand in hand for investment growth and a better world. One of the stocks in the portfolio, Whole Foods Market (WFM), solidly fits into that universe, and there's a "method" to what many traditional, profit-obsessed investors might probably call "madness."

The Method and the madness
Whole Foods recently announced a fascinating arrangement with eco-friendly home products company Method, which also happens to be a B Corp., or Benefit Corporation, which means it incorporates profit, people, and planet into its business model.

Despite its environmental cred and B Corp. status, Method is no niche brand (which certainly indicates the American consumer mind-set is changing big-time). You can find Method at many traditional retailers, and it's got powerful partners such as Target (TGT 0.06%), which stocks limited-edition Method products made in collaboration with London-based designer Orla Kiely .

However, the product available at Whole Foods shows that beauty's more than skin deep. It meets multiple needs with a truly purpose-driven twist: Method's Ocean Plastic soap is the first product packaged in recovered marine plastic. And here's even more bang for the buck: It's a kitchen hand soap and dish liquid. The Ocean Plastic soap costs $4.99 and is available only on Whole Foods' shelves and directly through Method's website. 

The Ocean Plastic bottle is made with plastic refuse collected by Method employees from beaches in Hawaii. This underlines many facets of positive purpose. First, this product raises awareness of a major problem: Far too much plastic ends up in the ocean, resulting in ecologically devastating outcomes far beyond the debris left on shores. Second, a portion of the product's proceeds will go to Sustainable Coastlines Hawai'i and Kokua Hawai'i Foundation, organizations that work to try to solve this problem. Method's product also shows that plastic that's already cluttering the earth can be reused instead of choking ecosystems .

Third, and maybe most important, the product signifies innovative ways companies can show it's possible -- and even profitable -- to provide more with less. Reducing the number of physical products consumers buy, lug home, store, and dispose of is actually an idea whose time has come.

For traditional retailers and product makers, that may be a frightening thought, since traditional marketing and commerce has often fostered a materialistic drive to "buy more stuff," but companies like Whole Foods and Method clearly aren't afraid of going where others fear to tread with the idea that the world can be a better, less wasteful, more efficient place. Over the long haul, such lofty purpose will increase consumer loyalty and goodwill, as many Americans are ready for their spending to help drive change as well as meet their immediate needs.

Positive purpose: More bang for the buck
In a way, this product partnership between Whole Foods and Method mirrors my portfolio's intent: delivering more bang for every buck, with some of that "bang" being loftier purpose than the strict numerical bottom line in near-term quarters. I seek to invest in companies that not only strive for healthy profits, but also attempt to improve their processes and innovate to make the world a better, healthier place.

For example, Waste Management (WM 2.50%) has engaged in investment and work to not only engage in recycling, but also transform some of the waste it collects to energy. Carpet manufacturer Interface (TILE -0.26%) touts its aggressive Mission Zero, a goal to eradicate negative environmental impact from its business by 2020. A Forbes piece recently pointed out that years ago, PepsiCo (PEP 1.96%) achieved a first in the beverage business by returning more water than it used, and continues to improve its water stewardship practices. These stocks are among the ones I've bought for my real-money portfolio.

It's not a perfect world, and Method admits its Ocean Plastic initiative won't solve the marine plastic problem. However, products like this and many of the others Whole Foods carries, such as its Whole Trade-certified items that help a cornucopia of communities and causes, show that if enough of us make the smallest actions, even in our consumer-purchasing decisions, big changes can be accomplished.

Companies that embrace positive change are the ones that are preparing for the very long term, where conscious capitalism solves more problems than it creates. Purpose-driven portfolios invest in a more positive future, and trends increasingly show that the time to start investing this way is now.

Alyce Lomax owns shares of Whole Foods Market and Waste Management. The Motley Fool owns shares of Interface, PepsiCo, Whole Foods Market, and Waste Management. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend PepsiCo, Waste Management, and Whole Foods Market. We Fools may not 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.

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