It’s not too often that The Daily Show invites a corporate leader to sit in the special guest chair opposite Jon Stewart. Usually it’s political activists and elected officials, authors and thinkers, or actors and directors. Last night, Howard Schultz, the CEO and chairman of Starbucks, made an appearance on the program. And he opened with the big news of the day (hey, it was on our Ticker!): Starbucks will be offering a free college education to its employees.
Through a partnership with the *Arizona State University, the company will give workers seeking a Bachelor’s degree the opportunity to pursue one, tuition-free, through online courses. He could barely get the words out and the audience was cheering.
“It is my job to hate everything. I’m having a really hard time with this one,” Stewart replied. “This sounds really lovely.” A talk show appearance – particularly one with Jon Stewart – doesn’t get much better than that.
Schultz said this is an opportunity for his company to tackle the issue of student indebtedness and help workers achieve something they wouldn’t otherwise be able to get on their own. And waiting on Washington is a waste of time.
“We’ve got to step up as we have in the past and show true leadership,” Schultz continued.
The message is clear: he says you have to “link shareholder value with value for employees.” More than that, he talks about an “enduring company” being about more than profits.
This is something PRs talk about often — building capital through your brand and your reputation. Starbucks gets hit a lot from people who think the company is pushing snooty/overpriced/burnt-tasting coffee; by those who find its ubiquity annoying; by those who find the patrons even more annoying; for baristas who can’t get the simplest names right on the side of the cup. But the company is still successful and much-loved. Check the trending topics on Twitter most days before noon and “Starbucks” is usually there because of customers posting pics of their morning java. There are critics of the program, and we all raise an eyebrow when a corporation says it’s doing something good “just because.” But it’s also refreshing to see a legit corporate leader putting something in place that really sounds like it has a chance to do some good for people.
Schultz also talked up this message of doing good for employees today with The Huffington Post. In that interview, he praised the new national healthcare program. Many lists of best places to work include Starbucks because it provides health insurance for part-time workers.
It’ll be interesting to see what other big company will push a program like this for its employees.
Image via Sean Wandzilak / Shutterstock.com
*Thanks to an anonymous reader for correcting me! It previously said University of Arizona.