Starbucks CEO Schultz: Coffee Pioneer and Political Pot Stirrer


Starbucks’ Howard Schultz (NASDAQ:SBUX) will attend his final shareholders' meeting as CEO on Wednesday before he steps down in April, moving to an executive chairman role. He has held the CEO position, for the second time, since 2008. Before that, he served as Starbucks CEO from 1987 to 2000.

As CEO, he has been known for mixing his political views with executive decisions while running the global java giant. Here is a look back at some of his most defining moments at the helm of the coffee giant.

Refugee Hiring Pledge

In January, Starbucks pledged to hire 10,000 refugees over the next five years in 75 countries. The move came in response to President Trump’s initial temporary travel ban executive order.

“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,” Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said at the time.

According to one brand tracker, the coffee giant’s consumer perception levels took a sizable hit immediately following the announcement. Starbucks has since refuted the data.

Stunned by Trump Win

The day after fellow billionaire Donald Trump won the presidential election, Schultz sent a company-wide memo titled “A Message from Howard Schultz: Onward Together,” which said:

“Last night, like so many of you, I watched the election returns with family and friends. And like so many of our fellow Americans – both Democrats and Republicans – I am stunned. We cannot know what the precise impact will be on our country and the rest of the world. I am hopeful that we will overcome the vitriol and division of this unprecedented election season. As Americans, we must honor the democratic process. We have a president-elect in Donald Trump, and it is our responsibility as citizens to give him the opportunity to govern well and bring our country together,” reads a portion of the memo from November 9, 2016.

Push to Vote

Months earlier, Starbucks partnered with Common Ground Foundation and Democracy Works to encourage Americans to get out and vote. Schultz and Grammy-award winning rap artist Common appeared together to promote the cause in Jamaica, NY in September.

Paid College Tuition

Under Schultz, in 2014, Starbucks began a college achievement plan offering full college tuition reimbursement to employees. U.S. Partners, aka company employees, can attend Arizona State University (ASU), to earn a bachelor’s degree.

Keep Guns at Home

In 2013, despite recognizing and respecting “open carry laws,” Schultz said he felt the debate over America’s gun laws was getting “uncivil.” He penned an open letter stating; “Few topics in America generate a more polarized and emotional debate than guns. In recent months, Starbucks stores and our partners (employees) who work in our stores have been thrust unwillingly into the middle of this debate. That’s why I am writing today with a respectful request that customers no longer bring firearms into our stores or outdoor seating areas,” reads the first paragraph.

Employer-Based Health Care

In 1988, long before the Affordable Care Act became law, Starbucks began offering health benefits to both full-time and part-time employees. It is not uncommon to see this benefit on a “We’re Hiring” sign in stores today. Schultz has said that his upbringing in a poor family shaped his appreciation for paid-benefits.