The chairman and CEO of Starbucks Howard Schultz was not only concerned about the racial problems in the Unites States, but he wanted to do something about it. So he started opening the floor to conversation with Starbucks partners (aka employees) in the company’s Seattle headquarters last December. The conversation, as he tells it, has happened throughout the company, which has thousands of outlets in cities like Los Angeles, Oakland, New York and Chicago.
“We at Starbucks should be willing to talk about these issues in America,” Schultz said. “Not to point fingers or to place blame, and not because we have answers, but because staying silent is not who we are.”
It seems Starbucks doesn’t only talk the talk– 40 percent of its 200,000 workers are members of a racial minority, reports Fortune.
Schultz is scheduled to also discuss Starbucks’ “Race Together” initiative at the company’s annual shareholder meeting on Wednesday.
The sentiment is a good one. But now the coffee purveyor is encouraging baristas to start conversations about race right in the stores. So you’re getting your Flat White (which are delicious BTW) and while you wait, you can talk about Ferguson with the person making your coffee. Hmm…
This initiative has morphed into a full-fledged, customer-facing campaign introduced in the video above and on the Starbucks website. Baristas can write the phrase “Race Together” on cups to get the discussion started. (Of course, customers can opt out as well.) The company has also partnered with USA Today, placing ads that will appear on Friday, bringing the initiative to readers across the country. You’ll also see ads coming in The New York Times.
The backlash has already begun on the #RaceTogether hashtag. First, you have people criticizing the effort for being so awkward. But it also looks like the SVP of communications for Starbucks, Cory DuBrowa, has deleted his Twitter account after people began asking him some tough questions. He says a barrage of tweets from critics prompted the action.
So what are your thoughts on this program? Sounds to us like Starbucks should’ve consulted with — and partnered with — a couple of civil rights groups before jumping into this feet first.
Additional contribution by Tonya Garcia