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Starbucks Shareholder Meeting Erupts in Boos as Investor Questions the 10,000 Refugee Policy

Back in January, in response to President Trump’s travel ban Executive Order, Starbucks said it would be hiring 10,000 refugees over the next five years, according to Business Insider.

This move was intended to “[build] on the humanitarian assistance we provided to refugees in 2015.”

In America, the plan was intended to work in conjunction with No One Left Behind, “an organization founded by a veteran and his translator, and dedicated to resettling interpreters, personnel and their families who served alongside U.S. forces,” according to the announcement posted on the company’s website.

The announcement also addressed the issue of vetting the refugees:

“Applicants will need to have work authorization and will go through the same review and background check as all other potential partners.”

Since that time, several customers called for a boycott on social media:



Business Insider wrote in February that Starbucks’ brand perception had plummeted by two-thirds, based on data from YouGov BrandIndex:.


In addition, CNBC wrote just over two weeks ago that Credit Suisse claimed the decision was “hurting [the] brand and sales”:

“Our work shows a sudden drop in brand sentiment following announcement of the refugee hiring initiative on Jan. 29th, to flattish from a run-rate of ~+80 (on an index of -100 to +100). Net sentiment has since recovered, but has seen significant volatility in recent weeks.”

During the Annual Meeting of Shareholders on March 22, investor Justin Danhof of the National Center for Public Policy Research questioned the motivation and wisdom behind the refugee hiring program, reported Yahoo! Finance:

“I have two quick questions: I understand that as you said ‘not every decision is based on economics,’ but economics are a hard reality. So, the first question is how much will investors have to spend so that company can properly vet refugees that the federal government admits it can’t always afford to vet? And why were you willing to have Starbucks’ reputation take a beating by attacking President Trump’s executive order when you lacked the courage to speak out against Obama/Clinton travel ban?”

Danhof’s questions was met with boos from the other shareholders in attendance.

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz answered Danhof, nothing he would try to “remove the rhetoric from the questions,” which was met with instant applause:

“If there’s one message that I think, I hope, you came away with today it’s that none of the things we’ve tried to do as a company, which is based on humanity and compassion, is based on politics. But it’s based on principles and our core beliefs. […]

I can unequivocally tell you…that there’s zero, absolutely no evidence whatsoever, that there’s any dilution in the Starbucks brand, reputation, or core business as a result of being compassionate.”

More applause followed Schultz’s response. He added that there was no extra cost involved in vetting the refugees for employment with Starbucks.

Schultz will be stepping down as CEO in April. Although some reports have tied Shultz’s move to the refugee announcement aftermath, it was actually announced prior to the refugee hiring announcement, with the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times both reporting on the change in leadership in December 2016.

Watch the exchange between Danhof and Schultz in the video below: