One might find it extraordinary to see a CEO think about more than just the bottom line. But when most Starbucks shareholders cheered Howard Schultz for his bold declaration of support for same-sex marriage, there is nothing impressive in that. That is a very disturbing message.
We cannot just let this pass without any response. We cannot be silent. We should not allow Starbucks to re-define marriage for us, because that is none of their coffee-making business. To Mr. Howard Schultz, we say, “If you’re for same-sex marriage, sell coffee elsewhere … because we are not buying.”
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
At the Starbucks’ annual meeting in Seattle last week, a shareholder complained to the chief executive, Howard Schultz, that the company had lost customers because of its support for gay marriage. Last year, Starbucks announced its support for Washington’s state’s referendum backing gay marriage, and in response, the National Organization for Marriage launched a boycott of the coffee chain.
“In the first full quarter after this boycott was announced, our sales and our earnings, shall we say politely, were a bit disappointing,” said the shareholder, Tom Strobhar, who was later identified as the founder of the anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage Corporate Morality Action Center.
Schultz responded, “Not every decision is an economic decision. Despite the fact that you recite statistics that are narrow in time, we did provide a 38% shareholder return over the last year. I don’t know how many things you invest in, but I would suspect not many things, companies, products, investments have returned 38% over the last 12 months. Having said that, it is not an economic decision to me. The lens in which we are making that decision is through the lens of our people. We employ over 200,000 people in this company, and we want to embrace diversity. Of all kinds.”
Then Schultz concluded, “If you feel, respectfully, that you can get a higher return than the 38% you got last year, it’s a free country. You can sell your shares in Starbucks and buy shares in another company. Thank you very much.”
See a video of Schultz’s remark, courtesy of the Puget Sound Business Journal, at this link: