Starbucks Corp. chairman and CEO Howard Schultz endorsed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in an interview Wednesday at the CNNMoney American Opportunity conference in New York.
“I think it’s obvious Hillary Clinton needs to be the next president,” said Schultz, who has long supported Democratic candidates, but has not weighed in on the current race until this week.
Schultz joins other high-profile restaurant executives in supporting Clinton, including New York restaurateur Mario Batali and a lineup of chefs that have joined a “Chefs for Hillary” campaign.
Donald Trump also has the backing of prominent restaurant executives.
Andrew Puzder, CEO of Carpinteria, Calif.-based CKE Restaurants Holdings Inc., parent to the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s chain, who served on the committee that wrote the Republican party platform, has openly supported Trump in the media.
Howard Lorber, executive chairman of Westbury, N.Y.-based Nathan’s Famous Inc., serves as one of Trump’s 13 economic advisors.
For years, Schultz himself has been rumored to be considering a run for public office, but he has repeatedly batted down such questions, saying the time was not right.
Instead, Schultz has positioned the Seattle-based chain as an agent for change, counteracting a political climate that the CEO has often described as dysfunctional and polarized.
In addition, Starbucks launched a series of videos and podcasts Wednesday highlighting “ordinary people doing extraordinary things,” or what it calls “Upstanders.”
The series was produced by Schultz with Rajiv Chandrasekaran, a former Washington Post editor who serves as Starbucks senior vice president, public affairs. Chandrasekaran also co-wrote in 2014 the book “For Love of Country: What Our Veterans Can Teach Us About Citizenship, Heroism and Sacrifice,” with Schultz.
Focusing on people “who engage in acts of compassion, citizenship and civility,” the series includes stories about a church in Memphis, Tenn., that embraced members of a new mosque built across the street; a man who helped reduce rates of homelessness in Utah; and a Michigan town that raised money for all high school graduates to afford college.
While the videos are not overtly political, Schultz said in a statement that the series represents individuals who are “emblematic of the American spirit,” and what is missing from so much of today’s national dialogue.
“We’ve asked ourselves what is the role and responsibility of a public company and, as citizens, how we can catalyze hope in a time when we need more optimism, empathy, compassion and leadership,” he said. “We have always been storytellers at heart, and more of these stories need to be heard. We are using our scale to share them as broadly as possible.”
In recent years, 24,000-unit Starbucks has led an effort to find work for 100,000 “opportunity youths” across the country. The company has held open forums on issues like race relations, and set goals to hire veterans.
Earlier this year, Starbucks launched a new initiative to collect food that cannot be sold to donate to food banks. And the chain has partnered with Democracy Works to make it easier for employees to register to vote.