When Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz leaves the company he helped bring to prominence on April 3, he’ll do so under a cloud, all thanks to his liberal policies.
Schultz, astute readers will remember, made news in January when he came out swinging against President Donald Trump and his refugee ban. The CEO — who former White House adviser David Gergen said was “definitely being pursued” to run for the Democratic nominee for president in 2020, according to the Seattle Times — announced via an open letter his company planned to hire 10,000 refugees as a response to Trump’s temporary travel ban.
Schultz, who returned to the company in 2008 after leaving in 2000, announced his intention to retire in December. Thanks to his controversial decision, however, what should have been a victory lap has turned into a nightmare.
In his open letter, Schultz said that Starbucks was making a “concerted effort to welcome and seek opportunities for those fleeing war, violence, persecution and discrimination. There are more than 65 million citizens of the world recognized as refugees by the United Nations, and we are developing plans to hire 10,000 of them over five years in the 75 countries around the world where Starbucks does business.”
According to the U.K. Daily Mail, Starbucks’ YouGov BrandIndex’s Buzz score — a measure of how consumers feel about a brand — dropped two-thirds between Schultz’s open letter on Jan. 29 and Feb. 13, thanks to a boycott from Trump supporters.
The Daily Mail said YouGov “noted that the data around this boycott is different because both the measures of consumers’ sentiment toward companies and their willingness to purchase from those brands are declining.”
CNBC reported that Credit Suisse reiterated its hold rating on the brand’s stock because of Schultz’s letter, saying both sales and the brand itself had suffered.
“Our work shows a sudden drop in brand sentiment following announcement of the refugee hiring initiative on Jan. 29, to flattish from a run-rate of ~+80 (on an index of -100 to +100). Net sentiment has since recovered, but has seen significant volatility in recent weeks,” Credit Suisse equity analyst Jason West wrote.
It’s easy to see why. Schultz isn’t the only person who has condescended to those who want stricter vetting by painting them as simply opposing “those fleeing war, violence, persecution and discrimination.” After all, our former president went as far as to describe them as “widows and orphans,” mocking those who had concerns about Islamic State group infiltration.
We’ve seen more than enough evidence that there are significant security concerns that need to be addressed. Consider the fact that the FBI confirmed that nearly one out of every three domestic terrorism cases it was investigating involved refugees.
We need a way to safely let in “those fleeing war, violence, persecution and discrimination.” We’ve needed it for a while. If Democrats like Howard Schultz want to blame someone for the temporary halt to the refugee program that Trump announced, they ought to look to former President Barack Obama, who had all the time in the world to reform the program and increase security. Instead, he did nothing.
Even though Schultz is stepping down, he says that he’ll stay “deeply engaged” with the brand. Shareholders might not find that as reassuring as he thinks they will.
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