Starbucks' Veterans Day Concert Highlights Its Curious Niche: The Multibillion-Corporation/Social Activist

Starbucks Starbucks is burnishing its standing as a new company breed that at first blush, might sound oxymoronic: the multibillion-dollar corporation/social activist.

Starbucks and HBO will host The Concert For Valor, a rallying cry to do right by America’s veterans and their families by employing them, for one.

Last November, Starbucks committed to hiring at least 10,000 veterans and military spouses over the next five years.

The HBO concert, which Starbucks calls the first of its kind, will take place on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. and air on Veterans Day, Tuesday, November 11.

Starbucks Chairman Howard Shultz talks to the ...

Starbucks Chairman Howard Shultz. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While philanthropic corporate efforts are nothing new, Starbucks’ founder and chief executive officer Howard Schultz has shamed government and the business community alike for their inertia in tackling social ills in a way that’s unusual for a CEO of a public company.

And he’s made “conscious capitalism” a centerpiece of Starbucks’ business strategy.

In 1988, Starbucks offered health insurance to part time workers, widely considered a pioneering move. And in June, Starbucks launched a plan to fund its employees’ college education.

These programs have given Schultz a platform to lash out at complacency in public forums.

During a meeting at AOL AOL’s offices in November 2011 to promote Starbucks then-new “Create Jobs for USA,” a program to raise funds for American small businesses, Schultz told reporters that Washington is in campaign mode, and so for the next 13 months is “not going to do squat.” Hence, the onus is on business leaders to help solve the jobs crisis.  ”We’ve lost something,” he said then. “We’ve either lost our conscience, or lost our soul.”

Schultz, who was raised in Brooklyn’s Bayview housing projects in Canarsie, had a similarly exasperated, urgent tone when discussing the class-based education gap in this country.

“I can go to Brooklyn today and point to a 10-year old kid in the projects. The odds that that kid is going to college and earn a four-year degree today versus when I was a kid are much lower,” Schultz said in June at an event to launch Starbucks’ college education program.

The veterans’ concert — which will feature actors, musicians and comedians ranging from Rihanna, Bruce Springsteen and Jamie Foxx to Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg — is designed to shine a spotlight on the nation’s duty to our veterans.

“We feel it’s important that all Americans pay attention to the huge economic opportunity that transitioning veterans bring to our communities and businesses,” Laurel Harper, manager of global corporate communications for Starbucks, told Forbes. The goal is to raise awareness for veterans’ support organizations that are dedicated to education, wellness, reemployment and reintegration, she said.

“As many [veterans] now seek reemployment, now is the time to offer them opportunities to work in our communities,” Schultz said in a statement. “They’ve stepped up. Now it’s our turn.”

 

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