Starbucks & Howard Schultz:
He’s For Real
By Shlomo Maital
Is Howard Schultz for real? Are his pro-social activities and investments genuine? Or is it all an act, to promote Starbucks?
Writing in the New York Times, columnist Joe Nocera answers: He’s for real. Schultz grew up poor in Canarsie, Brooklyn, housing projects, bought a small coffee chain in Seattle and turned it into…Starbucks. He was CEO until 2000, turned over management to someone else, Starbucks quickly crashed, and Schultz returned to the CEO job in 2008. Starbucks’ market value rose from $5.3 billion at the time, to today’s $72 billion. Clearly, Schultz knows something about managing and growing businesses.
But what Nocera particularly stresses is Schultz’s social vision. Here are some of his projects:
- In 2011, he called for a boycott on political contributions, until the two parties Democrat and Republican began to work together
- He began a project to make loans to small businesses, partly with money from the Starbucks Foundation, when the economy was struggling.
- He co-authored a book about the plight of American military veterans, and donated $30 m. to this cause from his family’s foundation.
- He has launched a medica company, with Rajiv Chandrasekaran, that will use storytelling to tackle important social issues.
- He started, last month, Starbucks’ Race Together campaign… including 10 forums for Starbucks’ employees to discuss race issues.
- He has promised to hire 10,000 youths who are neither in school nor in the work force.
- He will open Starbucks stores in disadvantaged neighborhoods, including Ferguson, Mo. Personally, I think Starbucks coffee is ..well, yuck. It is Robusta, rather than Arabica, because Robusta is cheaper. But heck, let’s give Schultz credit. He knows how to manage, and he also has a highly pro-active conscience. We need more Howard Schultz’s.
- Schultz’s vision is to re-establish the American Dream, which he himself lived. As one scholar pointed out, it is not just the inequality in wealth and income that is disturbing, in America, but the lack of social mobility, the ability to move from lower deciles to upper ones, as Schultz did. The American Dream has become the American Myth. Schultz wants to rebuild it.