Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz on Wednesday defended the company’s new “Race Together” campaign, which has been criticized for being naive and even using racial tensions to boost its bottom line.
The push by the chain best known for its Frappuccinos asks its U.S. workers to write “Race Together” on cups. Starbucks also plans to start publishing “conversation guides” on the topic, with questions like “How have your racial views evolved from those of your parents?”
During its annual meeting in Seattle, Schultz said the company is trying to use its massive reach for good: “Some in the media will criticize Starbucks for having a political agenda. Our intentions are pure.”
The campaign is the latest example of a big company trying to tie its brands to big social issues. The move comes as consumer brands acknowledge that customers are increasingly drawn to companies that project a feel-good image or embrace social causes.