Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is getting increasingly engaged in the nation’s economic debate, and in general, that’s a positive development. His heart certainly seems to be in the right place, and I’d be thrilled to see more socially-conscious CEOs eager to play a more active role in these discussions.
My concern, though, is that his plans still seem to need some work.
Schultz recently caused a stir in political circles when he rallied more than 100 prominent American business leaders behind a pledge: no more campaign contributions, for anyone in either party, until policymakers adopted a series of measures intended to boost the economy. The idea probably sounded better on paper — Schultz and his fellow participants seemed unaware of the fact that the Obama White House already endorsed all of the same economic ideas. By launching this donor boycott, the Starbucks CEO was inadvertently hurting his allies and helping his opponents, which is rarely a wise move. Indeed, the same people opposed to Schultz’s ideas were thrilled to hear about his boycott.
Now, however, Schultz is back with a new idea.
Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz hopes customers in more than 6,500 stores will leave his establishments with not only drinks in their hands, but also red, white and blue bracelets on their wrists.
Schultz announced [Monday] that the “Create Jobs for USA” initiative, in partnership with the Opportunity Finance Network, a collection of community lenders, will use donations to make loans to local businesses that have difficulties securing financing.
Starting Nov. 1, Create Jobs for USA will begin accepting donations online and in Starbucks stores. Every donor who contributes $5 or more will receive a bracelet inscribed with the word “Indivisible.”
“The country is not in a crisis. This is an emergency,” Schultz told ABC News. “There is a tremendous problem with small businesses in America getting access to credit…. Right now we can’t wait for Washington. Businesses and business leaders have to recognize that we have a shared responsibility in trying to make a difference.”
Hmm. Schultz’s idea for helping small businesses get access to credit is tip jars in coffee shops? Again, his heart is in the right place, and I applaud anyone who wants to make a positive difference, but there are more effective ways to improve the economy.
Schultz went on to condemn DC policymakers. “There’s no division between business leaders and workers. The division is between what’s going on in Washington and the fact that Americans who need solutions are not getting it,” he told ABC, adding, “I would beg [Washington], I would get on my hands and knees and say put your feet in the shoes of Americans who are being left behind and wake up and understand you took an oath of office to represent the country, not personal ideology.”
There’s nothing wrong with the sentiment, except for its lack of specificity. There is, after all, an entire political party in Washington that not only agrees with Schultz’s goals and priorities, but is also desperate to act on measures he supports.
So why doesn’t the Starbucks CEO, instead of painting with a broad brush in blasting “Washington,” partner with those who already agree him? Why not support their efforts? Why not call out those he sees as irresponsible — in this case, congressional Republicans who seem eager to hold the economy back — and praise those who share his priorities?
I give Schultz credit for getting involved and wanting to make a difference. I’ll give him more credit when he focuses his efforts in a more constructive, productive, and politically-smart way.