Starbucks: We are indivisible

I’m not much for patriotic displays, but I’m proud to wear this red, white and blue wristband inscribed with the word INDIVISIBLE.

I hope you’ll wear one, too. They’re available, beginning Tuesday, at Starbucks, for a donation of $5 or more to a project called Let’s Create Jobs for USA.

The program aims to create thousands of jobs across the country, by investing community development financial institutions (CDFIs) — mostly credit unions and community banks — that will then lend to small businesses, nonprofits, housing and commercial developers, micro-enterprises and the like, all to spark the economy and create jobs.

I’m a fan of this project,  for several reasons.

First, there’s no more front-of-mind issue in America today than jobs. So this a great example of how a big company can help tackle an important  problem–while enhancing its reputation as a business that supports its communities.

Second, Let’s Create Jobs for USA underscores the fact that, despite the rhetoric from politicians, jobs are best created by the private sector.  If you’re anti-business, you’re anti-jobs.

Ben Packard

Third, although credit for the campaign ultimately belongs to Howard Schultz, Starbucks CEO, Let’s Create Jobs for USA unfolded as it did because of a connection between Ben Packard, vice president of global responsibility at Starbucks and Mark Pinsky, president and CEO of the Opportunity Finance Network, a national network of CDFIs. Ben, Mark and I serve together on the board of Net Impact, a great organization of students and young professionals whose purpose is to inspire and equip young people to use the power of business to make the world a better place.

Let’s Create Jobs for USA is very much in the spirit of Net Impact.

I chatted about the program with Ben and Mark this weekend during Net Impact’s annual conference in Portland, Oregon.  Ben told me the idea grew out of a long-running loan program for farmers that Starbucks supports in coffee-growing countries. Last year alone, Starbucks made loans to 56,000 farmers in 10 countries; the company has promised to make $20 million in loans by 2015.

Mark Pinsky

With the US economy reeling last summer, Schultz wondered out loud whether Starbucks could do for its retail communities in the U.S. something comparable to what it does in coffee-growing regions. The company needed a partner, and so Ben recommended Mark, an indefatigable expert on community development and finance. (Ben hastens to add that after making the connection, he stepped aside, and work on the project was done by others at Starbucks.)  Through Opportunity Finance Network, Mark and his team can get the money raised at Starbucks into low-income communities quickly and with little or no red tape. Through its foundation, Starbucks donated $5 million to Opportunity Finance Network to get things rolling.

“That money will get out and it will get out right away,” Mark told me. “CDFIs have been lending in the past few years, and at a pace faster than traditional financial institutions.”

CDFIs have been around for decades. Many, in fact, get support from the much-maligned Wall Street banks, as well as the U.S. Treasury. But their lending has been constrained by a shortage of capital. Money raised by Let’s Create Jobs for USA will go to meet their capital requirements, enabling the impact of the donations to multiply. “Every dollar that gets donated will enable $7 in new financing,” Mark said. Loans support business ranging from local grocery stores to charter schools to affordable housing, all aimed at serving the poor and working class.

Schultz and La Russa show their wristbands

The effort crosses party lines. “Howard (Schultz) gave a wristband to President Obama, and he gave one to Tony La Russa,” said Mark. La Russa, as you may know, has Tea Party sympathies (see this and this) but that didn’t stop him from wearing an “indivisible” wristband during game seven of the World Serious.

The speed with which all this came together is breathtaking. Mark visited Starbucks HQ in Seattle in early September. The program was announced in early October, and it rolls out to 7,000 Starbucks stores and online on Tuesday. Many big companies would need a month or two just to run an idea like this past their lawyers.

The payback to Starbucks will come in the form of an enhanced reputation and, in the long run, healthier communities. People without jobs don’t spend $3 for a grande latte.

“This is about using our scale for good,” Schultz said.

Nice to see a CEO stand up for the 99%.


  1. says

    This initiative I am behind 110%. Can’t wait to get my wristband and continue to encourage others to do the same.
    It’s a great opportunity for those who want to help, to give money in an effort to do good, and see the money translate into more. Money translates to more money – it’s a beautiful thing. Not-to-mention the money will help support job creation and Americans building their dreams.
    I love this country and the do-gooders in it. Big thanks to Starbucks and the OFN.

  2. Carl says

    This is nice to see that people are beginning to figure out that the 99% need a boost…not a handout, nor are they asking for a handout, just a boost.

  3. Sibley says

    Marc, the one thing I’d add to this article is that the same reasoning that makes this a fantastic and admirable program by Starbucks applies to all of our banking decisions. I moved my cash (and that of my business) to a CDFI about 7 years ago specifically because the money is put to much better use, and I encourage everyone to do so.

    So we can make even more of an impact than buying a $5 bracelet (which I am looking forward to doing) if we change where we bank… it adds up pretty quickly.

  4. says

    Sibley, I agree. Not only that, if en0ugh people move their money out of the big banks, maybe they will shrink some and no longer be “too big to fail” and thus likely to be rescued. I hope to write about this soon.
    But…I feel tied to BofA because my mortgage, bill paying, auto deposits, etc all flow there, and the ATM network is widespread. So I haven’t solved this problem for myself yet!

  5. says

    Big Kiss to Sibly, you and Starbucks! If you go to you can put in your zip code and find a better bank. Even if you move one account – say your credit card, the mortgage later…. each step counts.
    Speaking of B of A:
    Ten Reasons Not to Bank On (or With) Bank of America
    As for me….$5? I think I might like to kick in $500,000 worth of my creations -all of which including me (like Starbucks) were born in Seattle. Indivisible animates my quote. Yeah! ” Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…it’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

  6. GW says

    How is Starbucks helping when they outsource overseas store draws and American positions? Positions that can easily remain here.

    Support USA and keep jobs in the USA – instead they ask USA to give more!!

    • says

      I don’t think opening stores in other countries is “outsourcing.” I’m not aware of Starbucks moving any jobs overseas that “can easily remain here,” either.

  7. Eric says

    I would like to state for the record that thanks to Starbucks, mine and my wife’s job is in thanks to the “indivisible” program. No…we are not baristo’s or whatever the shop workers are called, but crafstman producing a product that takes skill and hard labor……traits that been have lost or outsourced in our modern economy. Not that I’m against big profit or maximizing your bottom line but there are still Americans who are willing to work for a living. In the upcoming months I hope to b able to say that a big company took the chance on a small company and a smaller workforce and said “….. I believe “

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