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Starbucks will put people first, Howard Schultz pledges

Schultz promises greater investment in staff, company culture and ensuring stores adapt to changing market realities as he makes his first address as interim Starbucks CEO

Howard Schultz addresses Starbucks staff on 4 April 2022 | Photo credit: Starbucks 



Howard Schultz has used his first address as the interim CEO of Starbucks to outline a new staff and community-focused vision for the coffee chain.
 
Alluding to a growing unionisation movement in Starbucks’ US business, Schultz pledged he would “do better” for employees and said the coffee chain would not preference shareholder value “at the expense of our people or our customers.”
 
To this end, Schultz announced the immediate suspension of Starbucks’ stock repurchase programme and said the coffee chain would instead reinvest in staff, stores, and long-term growth.
 
“We’re going to do everything we can to ensure the fact that our partners understand the most important elements of everything Starbucks has done and will do is elevating the partner experience. And my job in coming back to Starbucks, is to ensure the fact that we, the collective we, co-create, reimagine a new Starbucks with our partners at the centre of it all. As a pro-partner company. A company that does not need someone in between us and our people,” Schultz said.
 
Starbucks will also need to adapt to new market realities to ensure long-term prosperity, Schultz added, citing the pandemic, supply chain disruption, racial tensions, and political divisions that have “eroded trust in public institutions around the world.”
 
Schultz also acknowledged that customers were engaging with stores in different ways and said Starbucks would need to reimagine and redesign the third-place environments that have been central to the brand’s success.
 
“All those stores that we have that have big lobbies, they may not be as relevant tomorrow as they have been in the past,” he said.
 
Howard Schultz’ return as interim Starbucks CEO was announced after Kevin Johnson said he would retire after five years in the role.
 
Schultz first took on the role of Starbucks CEO in 1987 and is credited with growing the coffee chain from 11 stores to more than 28,000 around the world.
 
He stepped down in 2000 but returned as CEO in 2008 as the company navigated the financial crisis. Schultz stepped down again in 2017, handing over the role to Kevin Johnson and remaining as Chairman until 2018.

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