Starbucks' Jim Olson told CNN Money that the decision to close Israeli stores in 2003 "was not related to political issues" but was for "operational challenges." This month, Olson said that the statement, written in 2010, was updated because of an "uptick in false rumors out there about Starbucks and the Middle East."
Some of the rumors were about the possibility of Starbucks investing in SodaStream. The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) threatened boycotts if this were true because SodaStream is manufactured in, according to the group, an illegal Israeli settlement in the West Bank.
Facts about Starbucks in the Middle East
Facts about Starbucks in the Middle East (UPDATED August 2014)
Though our roots are in the United States, we are a global company with stores in 65 countries, including nearly 600 stores in 12 Middle Eastern and North African countries employing more than 10,000 partners (employees). In countries where we do business, we are proud to be a part of the fabric of the local community – working directly with local business partners who operate our stores, employing thousands of local citizens, serving millions of customers and positively impacting many others through our support of local neighborhoods and cities.
Our 300,000 partners around the globe have diverse views about a wide range of topics. Regardless of that spectrum of beliefs, Starbucks has been and remains a non-political organization. We do not support any political or religious cause. Additionally, neither Starbucks nor the company's chairman, president and ceo Howard Schultz provide financial support to the Israeli government and/or the Israeli Army in any way.
What we do believe in, and remain focused on, is staying true to our company's long-standing heritage – simply connecting with our partners and customers over a cup of high quality coffee and offering the best experience possible to them – regardless of geographical location.
Questions and Answers:
Is it true that Starbucks or Howard Schultz provides financial support to Israel?
No. This is absolutely untrue. Rumors that Starbucks or Howard provides financial support to the Israeli government and/or the Israeli Army are unequivocally false. Starbucks is a publicly held company and as such, is required to disclose any corporate giving each year through a proxy statement.
Has Starbucks ever sent any of its profits to the Israeli government and/or Israeli army?
No. This is absolutely untrue.
Is it true that Starbucks closed its stores in Israel for political reasons?
No. We do not make business decisions based on political issues. We decided to dissolve our partnership in Israel in 2003 due to the on-going operational challenges that we experienced in that market. After many months of discussion with our partner we came to this amicable decision. While this was a difficult decision for both companies, we believe it remains the right decision for our businesses.
Do you have plans to re-open should the opportunity arise?
We decided to dissolve our partnership in Israel in 2003 due to the on-going operational challenges that we experienced in that market.
When and where the business case makes sense and we see a fit for the Starbucks brand in a market we will work closely with a local partner to assess the feasibility of offering our brand to that community. We will therefore continue to assess all opportunities on this basis. At present, we will continue to grow our business in the Middle East as we have been very gratified by the strong reception of the brand in the region. We continue to work closely with our business partner, the Alshaya Group, in developing our plans for the region.
Do you work with a Middle East partner to operate Starbucks stores?
Through a licensing agreement with trading partner and licensee MH Alshaya WLL, a private Kuwait family business, Starbucks has operated in the Middle East since 1999. Today Alshaya Group, recognized as one of the leading and most influential retailing franchisees in the region, operates nearly 600 Starbucks stores in the Middle East and Levant region. In addition to its Starbucks stores, the Alshaya Group operates more than 2,600 retail stores in the Middle East, Russia and North Africa, providing jobs for more than 40,000 employees of more than 110 nationalities.
We are extremely fortunate and proud to have forged a successful partnership for the past fifteen years and look forward to building on this success.
In which Middle Eastern and North African countries do you operate?
We partner with Alshaya Group to operate Starbucks stores in Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and United Arab Emirates in the Middle East and North Africa region. We are fortunate to have the opportunity to work with so many communities, and we are committed to providing the Starbucks Experience while respecting the local customs and cultures of each country we are a part of. We are also committed to hiring locally, providing jobs to thousands of local citizens in the countries where we operate.
This updates a statement originally posted to the Starbucks Newsroom in 2010.
- Do you believe that Starbucks invests in Israel? If not, why would these rumors get started?
- Assess Starbucks' statement: the messaging, organization, tone, and so one. What works well, and what could be improved?
- What are the most and least convincing claims in the statement?