Starbucks is one of the best-known companies and brands in the world. The success of Starbucks in the global market is not just, or even mainly, about the popularity of the coffees, teas, and snacks it serves to guests. Customers want to know where companies like Starbucks stand on social and political issues too. They’re eager to engage with the business values and cultural strategy of the company, in order to distinguish the choice for Starbucks over any of its many other competitors they could patronize for a drink or a pastry instead.
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a prominent strategic consideration for many companies. Authentic and convincing expression of CSR values can gain the attention and appreciation of consumers, competitors, and stakeholders. For a broad overview on the importance of inspiring this engagement for organizations seeking to use their interest in activism or social justice issues, check out this post on CSR tips for compliance programs.
Starbucks has an extensive history of integrating CSR objectives and values into its business strategy to engage with both consumers and employees. Some examples of how Starbucks has used its connection to political and social issues to identify its corporate sense of purpose and lead with a CSR message are as follows:
- Sustainability – Starbucks to Develop More Recyclable Coffee Cups with Help of Public
- Ethical leadership – Howard Schultz, Starbucks, and a History of Corporate Responsibility
- Corporate responsibility to inspire personal responsibility – Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz’s Strategy to Boost Profits
- Hiring veterans – Starbucks Is Expanding Its Pledge to Hire More Veterans and Military Spouses
- Building “veteran cultural competence” – Starbucks creates list of questions for non-military members to ask veterans
- Supply chain process improvement – How Starbucks Changed Supply Chain Management From Coffee Bean to Cup
- Enabling employee voting – How Starbucks Is Making Voting Easier for its Employees
- Community-focused against gentrification – Bed-Stuy’s First Starbucks Prioritizes Job Training, Community Space
- Social justice – How Howard Schultz went from living in Brooklyn public housing to growing Starbucks into an $84 billion business
- Paternity leave – Starbucks baristas now get half as much paternity leave as its office workers
It’s important to note that many, but not all, of the above initiatives by Starbucks were in response to criticism from activists, requests and debate from the public, and sustained campaigns by employees and interested organizations to inspire change in inadequate processes or end silence on issues. The challenge for Starbucks and other organizations going forward is to get these choices right the first time, or at least to be more pro-active and flexible in taking suggestions and adjusting standards to meet cultural and community norms.
For commentary on the expression of business values and cultural sensitivity by Starbucks, check out this post on the design of their Kyoto store.
For similar posts on CSR and business values, check out this post on political engagement as corporate strategy at Patagonia, this post on the CSR Roadmap of Tony’s Chocolonely, or this post on Ben & Jerry’s.