Q&A | Starbucks' CEO on Getting and Giving More than a Cup of Coffee

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz came to New York City on Tuesday to officially kick off a new feature in his company’s stores that has little to do with coffee and a lot to do with trying to fix the economy.

Starting Tuesday, coffee drinkers can donate $5 that will be added to the coffee company’s $5 million fund that will be used to for loans to small businesses. 

The program, “Create Jobs for USA,” is in partnership with the Opportunity Finance Network to provide financing for local businesses so they can expand, hire and help bring down the nation’s unemployment rate.

And to show they “gave at the coffee shop,” customers will receive a red-white-and-blue bracelet with the word ‘indivisible’ on it.

WNYC spoke to Schultz about the program and why he has little hope that leaders in Washington will find a solution before the next presidential election.

What is happening in stores starting today?

You can walk into a Starbucks today, give the $5 donation or more, get a wrist band and then we will get that money in the hands of community based loan organizations that hopefully will provide access to credit and create jobs.

Is there a specific goal?

With over 60 million people a week going through Starbucks stores we hope to raise tens of millions of dollars. I don’t want to put a cap on it, but clearly we’ve got high expectations of what we’re going to be able to do.

Why is Starbucks getting into the job creation business beyond its stores?

If you look about, what’s happening across American right now, with the protestors who really are demonstrating a level of frustration, anxiety, hopelessness, I just feel like this is a moment in time where like-minded people who have the resources — whether you are a company or an individual — we can’t ignore and we should not be a bystander. And obviously Washington is not doing what it needs to do to provide the foundation and the hope for these people, and I think companies need to do more.  What I’ve said publicly, and I know I have been criticized in some areas of the country for this, but corporations should not have a purely singular view of just profitability as its primary focus.  I think we are living in a time right now where there has to be a balance between profitability and social consciousness. We are trying to demonstrate ours.

There is a degree of populism in the program…this is some of the motivating force whether in Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party movement, do you see yourself in sympathy with some of their ideas, that it is the people who are going to take action?

If there is a line that I would use to describe what this program, hopefully, will be about it’s about Americans helping Americans. I don’t want to kind of put Starbucks in the same company with a political organization like the Tea Party or protesters, but I think there is a thread there that is connected and the thread is that there has to be collective responsibility, that the gap between the haves and the have-nots is widening and if we look at where this thing is going, and I said this quietly for months now, we could see social unrest in America and that would be a tragic event and I think we’ve got to step up and do what we can right now.

You are really concerned about social unrest?

I am concerned about it because I think there is a level of hopelessness and frustration.

When you look at some of the proposals coming out of Washington…is it your sense that these ideas are not really leading companies to hire people?

Truth is I don’t see any proposals coming out of Washington other than the president’s jobs bill which got voted down by the Republicans.  I think right now what I would say and I don’t want to sound as if I have all the answers because I don’t, but because of the ideology that exists, and the lens of most politicians who are incumbents looking at re-election, almost every decision and every proposal no matter what it is is going to go through this filter of asking whether or not this is going is good for me personally. As a result of that, I have very little confidence in anything is going to happen between now and the next 13 months.

It sounds like you are throwing in the towel?

I am not throwing in the towel, but my level of confidence that Washington is going to deliver a panacea of solutions to America over the next 13 months is pretty much zero. So what I am saying is we, as business people and business leaders, must do our part, and I also think that there has to be an understanding that to do our part there has to be more of a balance between profitability and social conscience to do the right thing for the people who need it the most.


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Comments [6]

hawkeye from oregon

I, an American citizen. With nearly 5 decades invested in my profesion. Both as a photographer and photojournalist. Have put a great many years for the benafit of our countries less advantaged.

I have always had great hopes and dreams for our great nation and it's people. Though not educated in the ways of politics, and without a college background. I have made it through the good times and bad. Waiting patiently for our country to take care of thier own. We're extremely good at helping everyone everywhere...except home.

Currently my Wife of 32 physically unable to work. No one wants to help her...we are nearly four years behind in our mortgage, and have a president that says we should be willing to settle for a job. We're both over one really wants to pay us over $12.50 an hr. Not having even a Christmas tree for the first time in all those years.

I am extremely disraught at how little the rich care for those of us that made them just that, and a government so out of touch with reality, there only concernes are about just how to get the rich richer.

I recently was told by one of the greatest sports photographers of our great my work was, and hoped I'd make it with my vast knowedge of FX and my transition to video. I am the son of a WWII vet, and a grandfasther that defected from Germany during the Kiazers regime in Germany. They fought long and hard to give us all ALL a better way of life. I am extremey disheartend as to where the world asnd its people are almost inevitable self destruction.

My Grand Father, and father and my Uncles and thier friends who died to give us all a better way of life. I feel bad for. Bad that greed and money take presidence over kindness, compassion and love. I guess we've forgotten about what our great nation stands for.

From what I recall its goes something like this: life, Liberty and the PERSUIT(not survival) of happiness. I feel great sorrow and pain for those who gave thier lives for a better life for all, no few of us. It's too bad no one will care, or even acknowledge this writing, the writing of someone not willing to relinquish his dream. And settle. So...I guess I'll juest keep being of service to others, and prey we don't blow our planet to hell.

Dec. 22 2011 12:07 AM
joan Krause

I read about this program in the paper a few weeks ago and went online to see if it really had come to fruition. I think it's innovative and I think I could easily help my private sector neighbor start a business. Way to go all of us(you) givers.

Nov. 10 2011 12:50 PM
Ron Ross

I applaud what Mr. Schultz is trying to accomplish. I gave my $5 yesterday and will give much more to support self-help causes like the ones Schultz advocates. We need to "re-boot" this entire country, re-set our priorities, both politically and economically. The current "Occupy" and small business loans programs are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what needs to be done. Bravo! Mr. Schultz.

Nov. 02 2011 11:44 AM
Michael from the Land of Irony

I'd like a small-business loan to open up 3 or 4 coffee shops across the street from 3 or 4 Starbucks locations in Manhattan. Oh, wait ~ you did that to the guys whose coffee shops closed because of your Engulf & Devour strategy. Nevermind, Howard.

Nov. 02 2011 09:28 AM
jon martin

Proud to be attending his Alma mater....Northern Michigan University. He has donated a Starbucks to be on our campus. 100% of the profits go to the school. Of course the student employees then get paid a crappy 7.4/hr without any benefits.

Nov. 02 2011 08:44 AM
Naomi Goldman from New York City

On the face of it this is an admirable step. It is along the lines of "put your money where your mouth is." I admire Shultz for this and don't ignore the fact that at Starbucks all employees also have health insurance. He may not be moving a mountain but he is putting some money back into small business development where less would exist. Shultz also grew up in poverty and that should not be forgotten either. He knows first hand how the rest of us feel when our access to money and jobs slip away. This is a good step and I am sure he will get some good business out of it too. He is trying.

I think this step comes out of Shutz's experience. I recommend a poverty book camp of poverty, loss of job and loss of access to financial opportunity for all billionaires who cannot get over their sense of entitlement. We may get much more actions from the private sector like Shultz's while Washington with the special interest of special interest groups blocks the government from doing anything. Go Howard!

Nov. 02 2011 08:04 AM

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