The Starbucks CEO, a Shareholder, Same-Sex Marriage and Grande Lies

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Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz was recently alleged to have said that he does not want business from those who oppose same-sex marriage and support traditional marriage. But did Schultz really say that or is someone passing out grande lies?

Let’s briefly consider what Schultz allegedly said on gay marriage and investing in Starbucks, what he actually said, and why the shareholder is still invested in Starbucks.

The Allegations. A shareholder noted that Starbucks sales and earning were disappointing the quarter after the National Organization for Marriage boycotted them for supporting same-sex marriage. Howard Schultz is alleged to have answered the complaint that those who support traditional marriage should invest elsewhere. For example, consider this headline from Time – Starbucks CEO Doubles Down on Gay-Marriage Support, Telling Shareholder to Sell Stake if He Doesn’t Like Views.

The loudest gong may have been sounded from Conservative Joe Miller’s Restoring Liberty site which touted the story as –  Starbucks CEO: If You Support Traditional Marriage, We Don’t Want Your Business. The article clearly states Schultz position as follows.

At the Starbucks annual shareholders meeting on Wednesday, CEO Howard Schultz sent a clear message to anyone who supports traditional marriage over gay marriage: we don’t want your business. After saying Starbucks wants to “embrace diversity of all kinds,” he told a shareholder who supports traditional marriage that he should sell his shares and invest in some other company.

The Truth. Restoring Liberty’s story was all over my Facebook feed when it first came out, but they seem to be serving up a cup of grande lies. What Schultz actually said to the shareholder who questioned Starbucks stance on gay marriage was accurately reported by the Forbes’ article Howard Schultz to Anti-Gay-Marriage Starbucks Shareholder: ‘You Can Sell Your Shares’.

Not every decision is an economic decision. Despite the fact that you recite statistics that are narrow in time, we did provide a 38% shareholder return over the last year. I don’t know how many things you invest in, but I would suspect not many things, companies, products, investments have returned 38% over the last 12 months. Having said that, it is not an economic decision to me. The lens in which we are making that decision is through the lens of our people. We employ over 200,000 people in this company, and we want to embrace diversity. Of all kinds. If you feel, respectfully, that you can get a higher return than the 38% you got last year, it’s a free country. You can sell your shares in Starbucks and buy shares in another company. Thank you very much.

Schultz answered very well – one might even say strategically. He did not back down from supporting same-sex marriage, but he did not shun traditional marriage either. Instead, he pointed the investor to the stock returns and held his ground in the name of diversity.

The Shareholder. The Starbucks shareholder who inquired about the correlation between Starbucks supporting gay marriage and its investment return is Thomas Strobhar. Strobhar is the founder of The Corporate Morality Action Center where he shares his own thoughts about Starbucks and marriage – Has Starbucks’ Stance on Gay Marriage Cost Shareholders Millions? While worried that Starbucks’ sales may struggle in other parts of the world where gay marriage is “unthinkable” he admits that this is not the end of the road for Starbucks.

Is this the end of the world for Starbucks?  Hardly. They are likely to grow, but shareholders did lose over six billion dollars in market value since the earnings announcement and over twelve billion from its high.  This all occurred while the overall stock market was relatively stable.   Clearly, Starbucks is losing some of its “mojo” as a growth company.

I appreciate Strobhar’s stance and concern, but I have a question for him. If Strobhar is so concerned about the standing against gay marriage, the 2012 National Organization for Marriage boycott and investment returns – why is he still a Starbucks shareholder?

Finally. I don’t think Schultz or Starbucks need to support same-sex marriage. They serve people on both sides of the debate both as coffee drinkers and investors. As a publicly traded company they could have just stayed silent and continued producing and selling a quality product.

Yet, since public statements were made we Christians should strive to represent accurately those with whom we disagree. There was no need to misrepresent or sensationalize Schultz comments. He is clear on his position which gives people who disagree plenty of reason to take their business elsewhere.

Me? I’m undecided at this point. I love a good strong, black cup of coffee. But drinking the “hot milkshakes” (as I call them) that Starbucks serves? Not so much. I know that as long as I’m in this world I have to keep spending my money in non-Christian run companies that support all kinds of things from pornography to gay marriage to who knows what. Unfortunately, there is no way around it.

I’ll be prudent where I can, when I can, but I’m not sure about the whole boycott thing. Though I do wonder how many churches buy Starbucks coffee for their congregations and if they’ll consider changing.

For what it’s worth…

Mark

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 nickvahalik March 27, 2013 at 11:25 am

For over a year now, I’ve boycotted Starbucks. The reason why I have is because Starbucks has made corporate policy of supporting organizations who pour money into promotion homosexual “rights” and events in the areas in which they service. See http://www.dumpstarbucks.com/documents/memo.pdf. Whereas other businesses may support it on a local level (ala Apple with Prop 8), Starbucks, along with a host of other companies, have decided to start giving money to organizations that are working to try to pass ordinances and legislation that is at best intolerant and fully of squishy language.

That said, I’ve accepted a drink someone has bought me and if I were to receive a gift card, I’d use it.

However, when confronted with the old “do you know where *every* dollar you spend goes?” argument, I have to admit that I don’t. In fact, even in the aftermath of these comments, I find myself agree with Mr. Moore arguments that we are losing this battle and that if we choose to only fight in this matter, then we’ve already lost: http://www.russellmoore.com/2012/03/25/should-christians-boycott-starbucks/.

At this point, I’m considering my stance again.

However, not buying from Starbucks has allowed me to patronize other smaller coffee shops and try new things. Even if I were to suddenly decide to abandon my boycott, I’d certainly look for better ways to utilize my money!

2 Mark March 27, 2013 at 11:47 am

Great thoughts, Nick. Thanks! I currently have a $10 Starbucks gift card someone gave me in February. I am in no hurry to spend it and once I do I have no plans to go back.

3 Marty Duren (@martyduren) March 27, 2013 at 11:56 am

Well said, Mark.

4 Mark March 27, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Thanks, Marty.

5 Micah Burke March 27, 2013 at 2:53 pm

I think as the world becomes more clearly secular and less conforming to the appearance of keeping God’s laws, we find ourselves living in a society more-and-more like that which the church did in the first centuries. Paul, rather than promoting boycotting of pagan shops went so far as to claim that even eating meat that had been offered to idols was not something questionable, except in the interest of your fellow believer’s conscience (believing it was theologically wrong to do so.)
So while I understand the boycott concept from the standpoint of a conservative, wanting to stand for conservative values, as a Christian I don’t see a boycott as demanded or even commended by Scripture, rather, I find that as believers we need to be in the marketplace so as to share the good news.

6 Darell Clem March 24, 2014 at 8:58 am

While the word boycott is not explicitly used in the Bible, the concept of not contributing to the enemy in the spiritual warfare is. This is not just the case personally refraining from a particular sin; this is a company that chose to be a warrior in the Humanist war on the Christian world view. This atheistic/humanistic belief system is not going to peacefully co-exist with the Christian world view, but since at least the seventeenth century has vowed to destroy the Christian belief system and replace it with a man-made “heaven on earth”, which historically has proven to become a “hell on earth”, including it’s own ego-manic leader playing “god”. We Christians are to be the salt and light in a rotting, dark world; not find excusing to tacitly ignore the incremental advancement of the atheist’s alternative “heaven”, which at this point may mean sacrificing the craving of an overpriced cup of coffee to keep your money from financing the destruction of your country and beliefs.

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