Starbucks has pledged to hire 10,000 refugees over the next five years, as the industry shows tentative signs of a pushback against new US president Donald Trump.
On Friday, President Trump signed an executive order that brought the country’s refugee programme to a temporary standstill and will, critics argue, effectively ban Muslims from seven specific countries from entering the US.
In a letter to employees, the coffee chain’s CEO, Howard Schultz, said that it was committed to ensuring its employees from the affected countries were impacted as little as possible, and vowed to show its support to refugees worldwide with a new recruitment drive.
Schultz said that Starbucks would work with its partners around the world ‘in a concerted effort to welcome and seek opportunities for those fleeing war, violence, persecution and discrimination’.
He claimed that the Seattle-based company had a long history of hiring young people looking for opportunities and helping them achieve a new life.
It’s not the first time that Schultz has tried to promote better race relations.
“There are more than 65 million citizens of the world recognised as refugees by the United Nations,” Schultz said, “and we are developing plans to hire 10,000 of them over five years in the 75 countries around the world where Starbucks does business. And we will start this effort in the US by making the initial focus of our hiring efforts on those individuals who have served with US troops as interpreters and support personnel in the various countries where our military has asked for such support.”
The latest executive action, which restricts travel from countries including Syria, Iran and Iraq, gained heightened attention after travellers who had previously worked for the US military were detained at airports across the country. Those who had already been flying at the time the executive order was signed were also stopped.
Coffee is what unites our common heritage
Schultz also took aim at another of Trump’s presidential orders: to build a wall, possibly up to 16 feet in height, along the entirety of its border with Mexico.
“We have been open for business in Mexico since 2002, and have since opened almost 600 stores in 60 cities across the country, which together employ over 7,000 Mexican partners who proudly wear the green apron,” Schultz said.
“Coffee is what unites our common heritage, and as I told Alberto Torrado, the leader of our partnership with Alsea in Mexico, we stand ready to help and support our Mexican customers, partners and their families as they navigate what impact proposed trade sanctions, immigration restrictions and taxes might have on their business and their trust of Americans. But we will continue to invest in this critically important market all the same.”
The company has already donated more than $2 million to support the livelihood, food security and water quality of coffee producing communities in Oaxaca, in southern Mexico. It has also donated over a million coffee trees to support 70,000 families, and we will be expanding the initiative this year to generate another 4 million tree donations.
It’s not the first time that the Starbucks boss has tried to promote better race relations – but his previous attempt, the Race Together campaign, was broadly criticised on social media.
Supermarkets slump on prospect of border wall
In other news, shares in US supermarkets Kroger, Walmart and Whole Foods Market were all down – in the case of Whole Foods by as much as 2.8% – as uncertainty persists around the nature of Trump’s planned wall on the Mexican border.
The US president has promised to make Mexico reimburse the cost of the project ‘in some form’ – seen by many as a warning of an import tax, or the introduction of trade restrictions between American and Mexican companies.
A 20% tax on imports of Mexican produce would, at current levels, be more than enough to fund the $20 billion that the wall is expected to cost.
But the industry has recognised that such a heavy surcharge would damage trade, and is likely to lead only to increased prices for consumers in the US.
Any such move would directly affect the businesses of Kroger, Walmart and Whole Foods, who would likely have no alternative but to pass the additional cost onto American consumers.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2017