In an open letter to the coffee chain’s partners, Howard Schultz pledged a number of actions, positioning these in response to “the Executive Order that President Trump issued on Friday, effectively banning people from several predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States, including refugees fleeing wars”.
The pledge that has received the most attention is to hire 10,000 refugees (among 65 million recognised by the UN) over the course of five years, in the 75 countries around the world where Starbucks does business. Schultz wrote: “We have a long history of hiring young people looking for opportunities and a pathway to a new life around the world. This is why we are doubling down on this commitment by working with our equity market employees as well as joint venture and licensed market partners in a concerted effort to welcome and seek opportunities for those fleeing war, violence, persecution and discrimination.”
The other pledges were:
- continued financial support and other services to employees and potential hires who are part of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
- continued investment in Mexico and support for their partners, customers and their families there
- continued support for the Affordable Care Act: Starbucks provides access to health insurance under it.
The open letter is a clear assertion of values: a sign of a business taking a firm stance to resist the new President’s divisive rule. In Schultz’s words:
“In the face of recent events around the world, let me assure you that we will stay true to our values and do everything we can possibly do to support and invest in every partner’s well-being while taking the actions that are squarely within our ability to control. This is our focus: providing a Third Place of respite for those around the world who seek it, daily.
We are living in an unprecedented time, one in which we are witness to the conscience of our country, and the promise of the American Dream, being called into question. These uncertain times call for different measures and communication tools than we have used in the past. Kevin and I are going to accelerate our commitment to communicating with you more frequently, including leveraging new technology platforms moving forward.”
Which communications techniques and technology platforms will Starbucks and other values-led businesses draw upon to help them stand by their values? Share any examples you see with us.
One immediate impact of Schultz’s strong stance is that others took sides too: Trump called for a boycott of Starbucks, while others expressed support. Will we see businesses play a stronger role in calling civil society to new levels of social and political engagement and responsibility?