Being open, inclusive and forward-thinking is at the core of what Starbucks is about. Starbucks has been a longtime advocate for the LGBT community and marriage equality. The company filed an amicus brief to the Supreme Court case challenging the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013 and signed onto The People’s Brief earlier this year.
The company’s most vocal statement on diversity and equality came during a spontaneous exchange at the 2013 Starbucks Annual Meeting of Shareholders. During the question and answer portion of the meeting, a stockholder voiced his view that the company had lost customers because of its support for gay marriage.
“Not every decision is an economic decision,” responded Howard Schultz, Starbucks chairman, and ceo. “The lens in which we are making that decision is through the lens of our people.”
Cheers and applause interrupted Schultz, who continued, “If you feel, respectfully, that you can get a higher return than the 38% you got last year, it’s a free country. You can sell your shares in Starbucks and buy shares in another company. Thank you very much.”
Months later, in October of 2013, Starbucks added coverage of transgender reassignment surgery to the company’s health benefits. It had already covered prescription drugs for hormone replacement therapy and mental health care. In 2014, a year later, Starbucks removed the financial cap on surgery benefits.
In June of 2014, Starbucks flew the Pride flag atop its Seattle headquarters for the first time, and earlier this week raised the flag again.
Starbucks received a 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s 2015 Corporate Equality Index, a national benchmarking tool on corporate policies and practices pertinent to LGBT employees. HRC also rated Starbucks as one of the “Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality.”