I am experiencing an ethical dilemma regarding the Starbucks shareholder drama. In a nutshell, several of my more conservative, evangelical friends are outraged at CEO Howard Schultz’s announcement to the shareholders that he does not support the traditional family and that people who are against gay marriage can sell their shares and take their business elsewhere, and they have decided to boycott Starbucks as a result.
My ethical dilemma is this:
I am all for people not supporting Starbucks. But Schultz didn’t say that. Not actually. Not quite.
He never said that he doesn’t support what they define as the “traditional family.” He has never said that he does not support heterosexuals’ right to marry. He merely disputed the shareholder’s claim that their commitment to marriage equality was the reason that they lost business in the quarter after they made that announcement by pointing out that shareholders got a 38% return on their investment last year. He then said that if the shareholder in question was unhappy with the 38% return (again, not their stance on marriage, although he did make a point to reiterate their commitment to diversity), he was welcome to sell his shares of Starbucks and invest in another company.
Yes, Starbucks is a supporter of equal marriage rights. This is not news. It’s part of their commitment to “embracing diversity,” as you can hear Schultz himself say in this video. If they want to boycott based on that – fine. I will accept this course of action, and I will not point out their hypocrisy – that when others boycotted Chick-Fil-A for their CEO’s statement about marriage, these same people who are up in arms about Starbucks were the ones commenting on how silly it was that someone would boycott a company because they disagreed with their political views.
Oh, wait. I guess I did just point it out. Well, I won’t point it out to them.
Because on the one hand, people should get their facts straight before speaking out against someone or something.
But on the other hand, this just means more people NOT drinking Starbucks, and that makes me happy. There are plenty of good reasons not to support Starbucks. The most important one to me is that all of their coffee is not fairly traded, which means that a good portion of their product is produced by what basically amounts to slave labor. And yes, there are many products for which there is not a readily available, fair-labor option, but coffee is not one of those products. Anyone, anywhere, can buy fairly traded coffee with fairly little effort. And coffee drinkers with a conscience should be doing so.
So while the reason they’re boycotting is, well…stupid, I can’t quite bring myself to correct them and thus encourage them to continue supporting Starbucks. After all, isn’t one of my New Year’s Resolutions not to get involved in Facebook drama? I think I’m going to go ahead and hide behind that.
[Aside – I have noticed that most of my Catholic and Orthodox friends tend not to get involved in these things. I like that about them.]
Perhaps the real ethical dilemma is that I’m having way too much fun with this and being just a little bit catty about it. And on Holy Week. Shame on me.