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Starbucks unveils the College Achievement program, providing tuition to more thanfull- and part-time employees who attend Arizona State University online. Starbucks rolls out its unintentionally polarizing Race Together campaign. If anything, the potential downsides far outweigh any ostensible ROI.
It was just one of many race-related conversations employees tell me Schultz was engaging them in prior to Race Together.
Rodney Hines, who oversees community investments, remembers being out with his mother one weekend and bumping into Schultz.
The CEO pulled Hines aside to ask his thoughts on race. By early January, the company had held another partner forum in Oakland, California, followed by events in St. Louis and New York. The company, which felt like it was witnessing some real collective healing, believed it was doing the right thing.
Schultz and his directors, who include former defense secretary Robert Gates and former presidential candidate Bill Bradley, spent several hours talking about race. The conversation grew candid, and director Mellody Hobson, the president of Ariel Investments and chair of DreamWorks Animation, recalls several people even crying.
Some felt that Starbucks should focus first on its own diversity shortcomings. Others wondered whether it was the right time to broach the subject publicly, given how volatile the issue had become in cities across the country.
I cannot be a bystander.
His outlook was shaped by his upbringing in the Bay View projects of Brooklyn—he often says that he always dreamed of building a company that his late father, who struggled financially throughout life, never had the opportunity to work for. Schultz has met with clergy members and police chiefs.
Recently, he had dinner with the newly elected CEO of JCPenney, Marvin Ellison, who confided how, while teaching his teenage son to drive, he had to train him to keep his hands glued to the steering wheel in case a white cop pulled him over. They did foresee some challenges.
So what happens when conversations are not so controlled, and no one is facilitating? Just 24 hours after the initiative launched in stores nationwide, public affairs VP Vivek Varma told the board—incidentally in another meeting, this time in Seattle—about the negative reaction on Twitter.
Varma and the board spent five or 10 minutes discussing the hiccup, but it was too early to fully appreciate the PR disaster looming.
Starbucks, however, remained committed. He adds that he feels that the campaign was misconstrued—that Starbucks never envisioned baristas and customers solving the racial divide over caramel macchiatos.
This contradicts what Schultz himself said when introducing the initiative to partners.Apple Newsroom is the source for news about Apple. Read press releases, get updates, watch video and download images.
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