Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz moved on from the vegatables (sic) snafu to deliver an inspirational speech about using scale for good at the coffee company's annual shareholders meeting in Seattle on Wednesday.
Schultz started off by talking about how Starbucks “hit the American Dream” 20 years ago when it reached $250 million in market capitalization on the first day of trading as a public business. As of Wednesday, Starbucks, which has more than 17,000 stores in 58 countries with 200,000 employees, had a market cap of $40.4 billion.
He went on to talk about the economic situation in the US and how many people throughout the country are still losing their homes, jobs, and possessions. He said companies need to start looking at their business through a “lens of humanity.”
“The American dream is on a very, very fragile foundation, and we as Americans deserve better,” said Schultz.
Last summer, during the US debt ceiling debate, Schultz told US business leaders they need to step up and help get the country out of its financial crisis. He also asked Americans to boycott campaign contributions.
“We didn't do it for marketing or PR,” Schultz said to shareholders. “We didn't do it to ring the registers. We did it because we feel very strongly today that whether or not you're a private citizen, a business leader, or a public company, the country is facing a significant crucible, a test.”
Following his opening speech, Schultz invited Calvin Butts, a reverend at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem and founder of the Abyssinian Development Corporation, to speak to the crowd.
Starbucks has recently started programs with both the Abyssinian Development Corporation in Harlem and the Los Angeles Urban League where all profit from stores in the area goes back into the community.
Butts called Schultz a “captain of industry and progress” because he cares about human beings and their needs.
“You've got to put people first,” said Butts. “If you don't put people first, you will not have a social order that supports larger and better business opportunities.”
Schultz announced that, while it would be cheaper to build a plant outside the US, the company is opening a soluble roasting facility in Augusta, Georgia in early 2014 that will employ between 150 and 200 people.
The shareholder meeting, especially the first 45 minutes, was unorthodox in that it focused more on people than numbers. Whether or not Schultz has inspired his stakeholders and fellow businessmen to take action in helping the economy is yet to be seen, but he definitely captured everyone's attention and made his message clear.