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article imageHoward Schultz to depart Starbucks, but holds fast to his vision

By Karen Graham     Jun 5, 2018 in Business
Seattle - Howard Schultz told employees in a memo Monday, “I’ll be thinking about a range of options for myself, from philanthropy to public service, but I’m a long way from knowing what the future holds.”
On Tuesday, the 64-year-old Schultz had a wide-ranging interview on CNBC's "Squawk Box, where he declined to talk specifically about his next move, including speculation that he would run against President Donald Trump in the 2020 election.
"There's a lot of things I can do as a private citizen other than run for the presidency of the United States," Schultz said. "Let's just see what happens."
"I don't know what that means right now," he said. "But my concern for the country and the standing in the world, the lack of dignity, lack of respect coming from the administration. I think we can do much better."
Schultz's name has come up as a candidate in at least three previous presidential cycles. According to the Seattle Times, in 2016, he was on a list of vice presidential candidates under consideration by Hillary Clinton.
Starbucks staged four hours of racial bias training for its 175 000 US employees -- including at thi...
Starbucks staged four hours of racial bias training for its 175,000 US employees -- including at this store in Chelsea, New York -- in a closely watched exercise that spotlights lingering problems of discrimination
Bryan R. Smith, AFP
Schultz informed the company’s board of directors of his intention to step down over a year ago, and the departure was supposed to take place in May this year. Since that time, he has only been spending two or three days a week at his office in Seattle.
However, the incident that took place in the Philadelphia Starbucks restaurant, in which the two black men were arrested April 12 while waiting in the restaurant put Schultz's plans on hold.
"The truth of the matter is, I thought this was going to happen in May," Schultz said. "Then we had the unfortunate situation in Philadelphia. We thought, given what we wanted to do in Philadelphia and the obligation we had, we push it back a month or two."
And Schultz and Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson met with the two men, resulting in Starbucks employees being provided with racial bias training. It was only after this incident that Schultz felt it was the "right time" to leave. "The company's in a great position and it's always been a team sport," Schultz said.
Starbucks Center in Seattle  Washington (headquarters of Starbucks Coffee) in 2016.
Starbucks Center in Seattle, Washington (headquarters of Starbucks Coffee) in 2016.
Coolcaesar (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Schultz on what's important
Even though Starbucks has some 28,000 stores in 77 countries and had sales last fiscal year of $22.4 billion, Howard Schultz still believes in a company capable of balancing profitability and social conscience, compassion and rigour, and love and responsibility.
Schultz also believes a corporation has to have a social conscience, and that is why employees, even part-time workers, are called partners and are compensated, in part, with company stock, something he started in 1991. And Starbucks has not been afraid to take a position on any number of social issues, such as immigration, gun control, poverty and race.
Under Schultz's leadership, the company has also expanded health benefits and college tuition assistance to workers, and as he reiterated in the interview on Tuesday, all these steps add to a company's brand image.
"It speaks to the fact that rules of engagement for a public company and CEO are different today," he said. "In large part because it has been so polarized."
On the specifics of what he is planning in the future, Schultz, in a message to Starbucks partners said: "I’m also writing a book about Starbucks social impact work and our efforts to redefine the role and responsibility of a public company in an ever-changing society. It’s a journey that has prompted me to consider the many ways that each of us, as citizens, can give back to our communities. I’ll be thinking about a range of options for myself, from philanthropy to public service, but I’m a long way from knowing what the future holds."
And in keeping with the company's tradition of being outspoken on divisive issues in the United States, and in particular, Donald Trump, Schultz had a few comments.
"I think the issues that we are facing in terms of the dysfunction and polarization that exists within the government is really based on a systematic problem of ideology and I think we need a very different view of how the government and how the country should be run," Schultz told CNBC.
Howard Schultz
Howard Schultz
Schultz was particularly concerned about the administration adding to the U.S. debt level, which he called "reckless" and the "greatest threat domestically to the country."
And the Democratic Party was also hit, with Schultz saying Democrats had veered too far to the left and were over-promising on programs that aren't fiscally responsible. But even with the current polarization in politics, Schultz kept coming back to corporate responsibility and social consciousness.
As an example of this, Schultz cited the recent corporate tax cuts handed down by the Trump administration. Starbucks opted to return nearly 50 percent of its benefits to its workers.
"When you're building a great enduring company, not every business decision should be and is an economic one," he said. That can be a hard message to commute on Wall Street, he admitted, but said the goal should be "building a great enduring company."
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