Starbucks' Shultz stands by pledge to hire refugees

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz yesterday reiterated the company's commitment to hire refugees and expand on earlier announced goals to hire veterans and at-risk youth.

Schultz, who was addressing his last annual shareholder meet, will cede the CEO's job next month to Starbucks president Kevin Johnson, but continue as executive chairman.

Schultz made the pledge after president Donald Trump issued an executive order temporarily banning refugees from seven Muslim majority nations (See: After Trump ban, Starbucks to hire 10,000 refugees globally)

The pledge had prompted calls for a boycott of Starbucks in some quarters.

Defending his pledge he said it was not about politics, adding that the company's decisions were based on "humanity and compassion" and there was "absolutely no evidence whatsoever" that Starbucks had suffered as a result.

In recent years Schultz has had no reservations in taking positions controversial subjects. In one such instance Starbuck's baristas wrote "Race Together" on cups amid protests over police shootings of unarmed black men.

Though Starbucks had come to be viewed as opportunistic by its critics, its stand on issues managed to help it stay in the spotlight. Protesters gathered outside the venue of the shareholder meeting demanding the company deliver on its commitment to using recyclable cups, while employees called for the same parental leave benefits as managers.

Meanwhile, two days before the shareholder event,in an interview with The Washington Post, Schultz reassured investors about the person who would soon take the reins. ''I have so much faith in Kevin's ability and leadership skills that he's the right person at the right time,'' Schultz said in the interview. He echoed the sentiments in the meeting Wednesday saying, ''I think he's better prepared than me to lead the company into the future.''

However, Johnson would be taking over a company whose US sales had been lacklustre, failing to meet analyst expectations for five quarters in a row.