An explosive applause ensued at Starbucks’ annual shareholders meeting held March 20 in Seattle, Wash.
The moments leading up to this event were emotion-packed, and not quite what one would expect from an annual shareholders meeting.
First a shareholder, Tom Strobhar, spoke up in favor of the Seattle-based coffee chain’s open support of Washington state’s referendum that legalized same-sex marriage.
The open support of the aforementioned referendum led to a boycott organized by the National Organization for Marriage, which did have some negative effects on Starbucks’ profits.
“In the first full quarter after this boycott was announced, our sales and our earnings — shall we say politely — were a little disappointing,” Strobhar said.
Strobhar did not come out and say he was against same-sex marriage, but rather business was hurting likely due to the company’s support of the referendum.
More and more companies today are taking a stance on social issues.
From Target showing an advertisement for bridal registrees with two men to Chick-fil-A’s open stance against same-sex marriage, corporations are making their views known.
That was exactly what Starbucks CEO Howard Shultz intended to do.
He responded to Strobhar’s comment by saying “If you feel, respectfully, that you can get a higher return than the 38 percent you got last year, it’s a free country. You can sell your shares of Starbucks and buy shares in another company. Thank you very much.”
Shultz said the lens in which the decision was made was through the lens of the company’s people. Starbucks employs more than 200,000 people and he said they wanted to embrace diversity.
It was this bold assertion that merited applause from the audience, who undoubtedly also shared his sentiments.
Shultz’s audacious move was important because it symbolized that he and the company care more about their beliefs and values than net profit.
According to KPLU-FM, a Washington state affiliate of NPR, Shultz said it’s not about the bottom line, but about “respecting diversity.”
This is not the first time Shultz has become involved in something bigger than coffee.
When Congress was busying themselves with the imminent “fiscal cliff” in December, he asked the nearby Starbucks employees to pen “Come Together” on coffee cups with aspirations of percolating an agreement.
I applaud the efforts of Shultz and others who have stood their ground. If there is something you feel passionately about, put pressure on the issue, especially if your vehicle is a multimillion dollar corporation.
Austin Vining is a junior psychology and journalism major from Minden who serves as editor-in-chief for The Tech Talk. Email comments to acv...@latech.edu.