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Starbucks Chief Blames “Political Turmoil” for Operational Challenges

Last week, with Starbucks stocks in hot water due to lower than expected growth numbers, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz had an interesting spin.

“There is no doubt that we are navigating through a very unusual time of a confluence of social and political turmoil at home, weakening consumer confidence, and clearly increasing global uncertainty,” Schultz said. “All of that, I think, has created pressure on the consumer.”

Oddly enough, Starbucks is one of the most politically active companies in 2ndVote’s database.  The iconic coffee chain has financially supported liberal groups from Planned Parenthood to the Human Rights Campaign and even helped found the BICEP environmental business coalition.

Beyond financial donations, Starbucks also has a history of making very public advocacy statements. For example, the company signed onto the 2015 amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to overturn state protections for traditional marriage in the Obergefell case. Starbucks also publicly opposed Indiana’s RFRA legislation that was designed to protect the religious liberty of business owners and others.

Schultz even went as far as to blame “domestic civil unrest with regards to race” as a reason for a drop in consumer confidence. Ironically, Starbucks launched a controversial campaign last year that encouraged employees to talk to customers about sensitive racial issues inside their stores.

It seems Starbucks needs to shoulder some of the responsibility for injecting “social and political turmoil” into its business activities instead of blaming an “unusual time.” Customers may just want a cup of coffee without the politics.

Interestingly, Starbucks appears to be changing the subject very quickly as the company made several announcements Monday on new, relaxed dress codes for employees and changes for Schultz’s role within the company.

Click here to see more details on where Starbucks stands on all the issues.