Whole Foods co-CEO Walter Robb may not make as much as some of his fellow corporate chiefs. But that's all right with him. After all, there are benefits to keeping his pay tied to that of his workers.
“I can look a team member in the eye and say I’m doing exactly what you’re doing,” Robb, a co-CEO of the grocery giant, recently told Fortune, referencing a company policy that caps executive pay at 19 times the average employee's salary. Though the policy only caps salary and not total compensation, Robb's total pay package was a relatively low $1.2 million in 2012, according to Businessweek.
Earning just 19 times that of a typical worker -- which works out to about $453,807 in 2012 total salary for Robb -- make him an outlier in today's corporate culture. But that wouldn't have been the case in 1950, when the CEO-to-worker pay ratio was just a little higher than Whole Foods' current requirement, at 20-to-1, according to April data from Bloomberg. (S&P 500 CEOs today make 204 times that of regular workers on average, Bloomberg found.)
“I’m not judging other people for what they do, but at Whole Foods culture it’s 19 times,” Robb told Fortune of ballooning CEO pay.
Robb and his co-CEO, John Mackey, have turned manageable CEO pay into somewhat of a cause celebre. The two have spoken out in favor of “conscious capitalism,” or the idea that companies should aspire to a higher purpose than just being profitable.