This ten-day-old video clip may be the most inspiring thing I’ve heard an American CEO say to anyone about anything in a long time. At a Starbucks annual shareholder meeting in Seattle on 3.20, a possibly homophobic shareholder questioned Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz about the company’s public support of gay marriage in view of a resulting boycott having been partly responsible for disappointing first-quarter numbers.
“Not every decision is an economic decision,” Schultz responded. “Despite the fact that you recite statistics that are narrow in time, we did provide a 38% shareholder return over the last year. I don’t know how many things you invest in, but I would suspect not many things, companies, products, investments have returned 38% over the last 12 months.
“Having said that, it is not an economic decision to me. 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. Of all kinds.
“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 in Starbucks and buy shares in another company.”