Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has never shied away from involving his company in controversial debates, whether those debates are about same-sex marriage, or gun control, or U.S. government gridlock.
But the executive, who oversees a coffee empire with 4,700 U.S. stores, has now taken on arguably the most polarizing political debate in the United States: race relations.
Starbucks published a full page ad in the New York Times on Sunday — a stark, black, page with a tiny caption “Shall We Overcome?” in the middle, and the words “RaceTogether” with the company logo, on the bottom right. The ad, along with a similar one on Monday in USA Today, is part of an initiative launched this week by the coffee store chain to stimulate conversation and debate about the race in America by getting employees to engage with customers about the perennially hot button subject.
Beginning on Monday, Starbucks baristas will have the option as they serve customers to hand cups on which they’ve handwritten the words “Race Together” and start a discussion about race. This Friday, each copy of USA Today — which has a daily print circulation of almost 2 million and is a partner of Starbucks in this initiative — will have the first of a series of insert with information about race relations, including a variety of perspectives on race. Starbucks coffee shops will also stock the insert.
In a video addressing Starbucks’ nearly 200,000 workers, 40% of whom are members of a racial minority, Schultz dismissed the notion that race was too hot a topic business-wise for Starbucks to tackle.
Read more: fortune.com