New York -- Howard Schultz, founder and CEO of Starbucks Coffee Company, has never been one to shy away from taking a stand. Last week, at the chain’s annual meeting of shareholders in Seattle, one shareholder questioned Schultz over the company’s support of same-sex marriage, including the same-sex marriage referendum in the state of Washington.
Shareholder Tom Strobhar, who is a founder of the Corporate Morality Action Center, made his displeasure known regarding Starbucks’ support for marriage equality, claiming that a resulting boycott had affected Starbucks' bottom line.
“In the first full quarter after this boycott was announced, our sales and our earnings — shall we say politely — were a bit disappointing,” said Strobhar.
Schultz explained that the company’s support of same-sex marriage had nothing to do with economics but instead was about respecting diversity.
"It is not an economic decision," Schultz said. "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."
Schultz made it clear he had little patience with Strobar’s claim that the company had suffered for its views. And he offered the stockholder an easy way out.
“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 of Starbucks and buy shares in another company. Thank you very much,” Schultz said.
His comments prompted cheers and applause from the audience.