#RaceTogether — Admirable Social Intention or Stupid Marketing Stunt?

Let’s talk about corporate social responsibility, or the crazy idea that maybe…just maybe…some companies may actually believe in a world where profit can coexist with purpose.

Let’s not debate whether asking baristas to start a conversation over race relations was a good or bad idea, as I think we can all agree that asking employees to start a potentially volatile conversation with complete strangers had big flashing neon warning signs written all over it…even if no one at Starbucks saw them.

Let’s talk about the backlash, and why so many articles and blogs have been written about this blunder but never once consider that the idea may have been born not in the depths of a PR strategy meeting looking to capitalize on an incredibly serious issue, but out of a true desire to enact social change using the power of the Starbucks brand and their global reach.

Of course, much of this stems from the fact that many consider “capitalism” to be a four-letter-word, and can’t imagine a scenario where a large global corporation with billions in annual sales might actually have…{gasp}…good intentions?

Sure, if Howard Schultz truly wants to help push the racial conversation forward in America, there are far better ways than forcing a bunch of twenty-something’s to make people uncomfortable and then throwing a hashtag on it. Perhaps offering up their stores to freely host community leaders interesting in holding public meetings…just a thought.

But what about all of the good things that Starbucks is doing? What about their Supplier Diversity Program, or their Community Stores that focus on making a serious impact in their immediate communities, or their other social programs? Why don’t these same bloggers, writers and journalists celebrate the social achievements that companies are making?

For as long as most of us can remember, people have been begging companies to do more than just focus on the bottom line. Well guess what…they are…and you didn't notice!

If you’re not familiar with the concept of Conscious Capitalism, you need to invest some time learning about the good that some companies are doing, about the things that some corporations are doing just because “it’s the right thing to do”…not because it has some PR or financial payoff. What about the companies that are forming non-profit organizations to focus on the health and nutrition of children, or companies that launch and support micro-credit institutions to help lift up the poorest women and their families all over the world? The sensationalist bloggers and reporters seem to ignore these things when publicly blasting a company for trying to do something risky, but well worth doing.

So before you join the latest corporate lynch-mob, take a moment to learn what else that same company has done that might mike you smile, instead of grimace. It’s crazy talk, I know…but I've been called worse.