Starbucks CEO addresses ongoing protests and social media boycotts


Starbucks has issued a public letter, penned by CEO Laxman Narasimhan, denouncing violence and vandalism directed at its stores amidst ongoing protests and social media boycotts related to Israel’s war on Gaza. The company’s share prices have been adversely affected with its stock suffering the longest drop in its history and reports of slower sales. Narasimhan’s letter, posted on the company’s website, avoided explicit reference to the Middle East but condemned violence, hate, lies, and weaponised speech. He asserted that protests were influenced by social media misrepresentations of Starbucks’ values, emphasising the company’s stance on humanity.

In October, the Starbucks Workers United union expressed “solidarity” with Palestine on social media, a move Starbucks disagreed with. The company took legal action against the union for trademark infringement, further fueling calls for global boycotts from both pro-Israel and pro-Palestine factions.

Despite Starbucks’ efforts to clarify its position, critics remain unconvinced, with accusations of vagueness and continued retaliation against pro-union workers. Starbucks has signalled a shift in tone by reopening talks with the union and expressing a desire to rebuild relationships with workers in the coming years. The letter concludes with Narasimhan expressing hope for immediate peace, though its impact on the ongoing controversies remains uncertain.

Starbucks joins other high-profile companies, such as Zara and M&S, facing criticism amid the Israel-Gaza conflict. Instances of advertising controversies and scrutiny over companies’ responses to the conflict involve McDonald’s, Google, and TikTok, reflecting the wider challenges corporations face in navigating geopolitical issues.