San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Whole Planet and Grameen Bank

The Whole Planet Foundation funded the creation of the Grameen Association of Costa Rica with a $1.5 million, three-year grant.

The Whole Planet Foundation began after a “life-changing dialogue” between the CEO of the Whole Foods Market, John Mackey, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Bangladesh-based Grameen Bank.

Mackey runs the 27-year-old U.S. company, the world’s leading natural and organic foods supermarket and the United States’ first national certified organic grocer. The Texas-based company posted 2006 sales of $5.6 billion and has 185 stores in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, according to a Whole Foods statement.

To fund the foundation, Whole Foods picked an October day in 2005 and set aside 5% of all customer purchases at every Whole Foods Market in North America and the United Kingdom. In one day, the Foundation raised more than a half million dollars.

Whole Foods then pledged $1 million contribution annually to keep the foundation going for at least three years.

The Foundation plans to hold fundraisers this year to raise another $1 million through donation coupons. Whole Planet is also considering an online “sponsor a business” campaign.

After three years, the Grameen Association of Costa Rica will be handed over to Costa Ricans to manage.

The Whole Planet Foundation has similar Grameen partnerships in Guatemala and India.

Yunus inspired the Whole Planet Foundation and is on its Advisory Board. In 1976, Yunus began providing poor people, primarily women, with access to microcredits without requiring collateral.

Grameen has provided more than $5 billion to 6 million people in Bangladesh, 97% of them women. His loans have consistently received repayment rates above 90%. His bank has helped inspire the creation of more than 250 microcredit institutions in more than 100 countries based on the Grameen methodology.

Grameen and Yunus were awarded the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for “their efforts to create economic and social development from below.”


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