Since it opened its first store in Seattle in 1971, the unofficial mission statement of the Starbucks brand has remained the same: “To inspire and nurture the human spirit—one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”
While a global brand, its commitment to its home country—and to helping communities in need—is not just lip service.
Long a proponent of diversity and job creation, CEO Howard Schultz says businesses have a duty to help people, whether employees or customers, realize the American Dream, reports TIME in its Feb. 5th cover story.[more]
“I think the private sector simply has to take a larger role than they have in the past. Our responsibility goes beyond the P&L and our stock price,” Shultz stated. “We have to take care of people in the communities that we serve.”
Moved by the tragic events unfolding across America, Schultz’s most recent outreach program has been conducting employee forums to discuss racial tension, inspired by the aftermath of the national conversation around the incendiary events in Ferguson, MO.
As part of its employee engagement platform, the company reports that nearly 40% of its 150,000 US employees (or “partners,” as Starbucks calls them) are visible minorities. “We had to do something,” said Shultz, reports USA Today, of the need to have an open conversation about America’s racial tensions. “There would be no ignoring it or being a bystander.”
“Despite the raw emotion around the events and their underlying racial issues,” he continued, “we at Starbucks should be willing to talk about them internally. Not to point fingers or to place blame, and not because we have answers, but because staying silent is not who we are.”
Participants at the town hall meetings, held late last year, were anything but silent. “The current state of racism in our country is almost like humidity at times,” said one person. “You can’t see it, but you feel it.”
Another added, “This is the forum to say ‘I may not agree with you. I may not understand you. You may not agree or understand me, but I have value, you have value, your perspective matters and we will hash this out in a safe space.’”
Schultz’s stand has been consistent. “I’ve always believed that core to our success has been our commitment to achieve the balance between our social conscience and responsible commerce.”
As part of its long-term and ongoing commitment to corporate citizenship, Starbucks has been notable for its innovation in workforce training. These efforts include job creation, training workers with disabilities through its Inclusion Academy, as well as a pledge to hire 10,000 returning veterans, reports TIME.
Schultz summarized the forums on a positive note. “In every city we’ve had these meetings, there has been a tremendous amount of learning. There’s been a true level of compassion about what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes.”