Starbucks: Hate the product. Love the company.

At Starbucks’ annual meeting in Seattle last week, a shareholder complained to the chief executive, Howard Schultz, that the company had lost customers because of its vocal and economic support for same sex marriage and the subsequent boycotts of Starbucks stores by bigots. 

Not every decision is an economic decision. Despite the fact that you recite statistics that are narrow in time, we did provide a 38% shareholder return over the last year. I don’t know how many things you invest in, but I would suspect not many things, companies, products, investments have returned 38% over the last 12 months. Having said that, it is not an economic decision to me. The lens in which we are making that decision is through the lens of our people. We employ over 200,000 people in this company, and we want to embrace diversity. Of all kinds.

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.

I'm not a big Starbucks fan. 

I don't drink coffee and find their other offerings overly expensive and limited. 

And when I stop by to purchase a coffee product for my wife, I find the process confusing and pretentious. It's like entering a different country for me. This is partly because of my lack of vocabulary related to coffee, but Starbucks' ridiculous drink sizes and related lingo only add to my confusion.  

Other than their restrooms, which I use frequently when I am in NYC, I am not a Starbucks customer.

However, based upon Starbucks' support of same sex marriage and Schultz's response to the bigot at his shareholders' meeting, I would be a proud stock owner of the company. Not only has Schultz positioned his company in a morally just direction, but I think this position will benefit Starbucks enormously in the long run.  

37 states currently allow for same sex marriage. Today, a majority of Americans (57%) support same-sex marriage, compared with 39% who oppose it, and these numbers are trending strongly in favor of same sex marriage. Even conservatives numbers are trending upward, from 18% in 2001 to 30% in 2015. And amongst people born after 1980, support is at 73%.

It seems like a smart business decision to support same sex marriage. Schultz is positioning his company well for the long run. Other companies may wait to be as vocal about their support until the overall support by Americans increases, but being a leader and being perceived as a company with vision and a commitment to doing what is right has value. 

Schultz is unlocking that value. He's betting on the future.