Putting His Money Where His Mouth Is–Starbucks’s Howard Schultz

Amid the swarm of scandalous news of late–much of it involving leaders in government, major companies and organizations worldwide–a comparatively quiet effort has been taking shape, and growing, designed to bring pride, leadership and employment back to Americans. (We say quiet, because after an initial flurry, we haven’t heard much more about it in the news.) In fact, the Create Jobs for USA campaign spearheaded by Starbucks’s CEO Howard Schultz is a major bright spot is what appears to be the dismal landscape of corporate America. In our last blog, we called it a game-changer, because at least temporarily, it’s somewhat cooled the divisive political rhetoric and given us a cause nearly all Americans can champion. What began with a PR flourish (full-court newspaper and TV interviews, full-page ads, etc.) is now a bona fide movement and organization. To date, Starbuck’s and its partners, the Opportunity Finance Network, has leveraged more than $6.5 million for the admirable cause of putting American back to work. (The program was kicked off with a reported $5 million investment from the Starbucks Foundation and the rest has been raised from customers through the sale of colorful wristbands at $5 each. This money has gone into a revolving loan fund for small businesses and others providing community-based jobs.

While Schultz and his efforts have come under some criticism from manufacturers (http://www.manufacturing.net/blogs/2011/12/does-starbucks-create-jobs-for-usa) and from unions re: barista wages, Schultz’s initiative and commitment to this larger cause should be commended. Yes, businesses and corporations do good things every day, and for that we can all be thankful: They provide jobs for people and philanthropy for the communities where they operate, and collectively they contribute to the health and well-being of our nation’s economy (for the most part). Yet, as we have seen, they can also do a lot  of harm–need we even recite a list: BP, Countrywide, “Wall Street” firms, Fannie Mae, etc. Typically today, when a major company talks about a bold move, it’s in the wrong direction–layoffs, ethical lapses, political quick-fixes, and scandal-ridden operations. This has been an ongoing since at least 2001, seemingly since the bankruptcy of Enron, and no less likely, even before.

While others may raise questions about the sincerity and commitment of Starbucks’s Create Jobs for USA–mind you, no corporate action impacting the public should go unscrutinized–we should also give kudos when a corporate leader stands up, takes on the prickly issues, and puts his money where his mouth is. Way to go, Howard!

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