Courageous Leadership in the C-Suite: The ELC Supports Starbucks

A statement from ELC President & CEO Skip Spriggs on the Starbucks incident in Philadelphia.

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Racial bias runs deep in America, and the recent wrongful arrests of two black men on April 12 in a Philadelphia Starbucks has become a very public example of something that happens all too often in this country. We live in a society where black and brown people bear the burden of racial bias and oppression every day based on the assumptions and stereotypes that exist as part of our nation’s history. While the incident at Starbucks elevated conversations about both unconscious and implicit bias against people of color, it also magnified the impact that such incidents are now having beyond our immediate communities.

The Starbucks incident quickly became a national news headline and within hours commanded the attention of its CEO and shareholders. For Starbucks, it was more than a racial issue; it was also a stakeholder issue and a workforce issue. The incident, and how it was managed by Starbucks leadership, clearly demonstrates why Diversity & Inclusion must be valued as a priority by the highest levels of corporate leadership, and why our leaders must encourage tolerance, acceptance, dignity and respect in the workplace.

The Executive Leadership Council supports Starbucks President & CEO Kevin Johnson and applauds him and his leadership team for their courageous leadership. His swift and bold action is a model for all corporations. The decision to close more than 8,000 company-owned stores to conduct racial-bias training sends a strong message to his customers, employees, investors and board that discrimination will not be tolerated.

Times like these require us to better support our constituents and peers as they look to us for leadership. As courageous leaders, we must continue to have challenging and provocative conversations that will help us to think and act differently moving forward. I hope that the CEO community will benefit from the harsh lessons learned by Starbucks and work to build more inclusive environments in the communities where we work and live.

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