Starbucks corporation: serving more than coffee




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STARBUCKS CORPORATION: SERVING MORE THAN COFFEE
Wake up and smell the coffee—Starbucks is everywhere! As the world’s No. 1 specialty coffee retailer, Starbucks serves more than 25 million customers in its stores every week. The concept of Starbucks goes far beyond being a coffeehouse or coffee brand. It represents the dream of its founder, Howard Schultz, who wanted to take the experience of an Italian—specifically, Milan— espresso bar to every corner of every city block in the world. So what is the Starbucks experience? According to the company:
You get more than the finest coffee when you visit Starbucks. You get great people, first-rate music, a comfortable and upbeat meeting place, and sound advice on brewing excellent coffee at home. At home you’re part of a family. At work you’re part of a company. And somewhere in between there’s a place where you can sit back and be yourself. That’s what a Starbucks store is to many of its customers—a kind of “third place” where they can escape, reflect, read, chat, or listen.
But there is more; Starbucks has embraced corporate social responsibility like few other companies. A recent Starbucks Corporate Social Responsibility Annual Report described the company’s views on social responsibility:
Starbucks defines corporate social responsibility as conducting our business in ways that produce social, environmental, and economic benefits to the communities in which we operate. In the end, it means being responsible to our stakeholders. There is a growing recognition of the need for corporate accountability. Consumers are demanding more than “product” from their favorite brands. Employees are choosing to work for companies with strong values. Shareholders are more inclined to invest in businesses with outstanding corporate reputations. Quite simply, being socially responsible is not only the right thing to do; it can distinguish a company from its industry peers.
Starbucks not only recognizes the central role that social responsibility plays in its business. It also takes constructive action to be socially responsible.
Starbucks is the leading retailer, roaster, and brand of specialty coffee in the world with more than 7,500 retail locations in North America, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, and the Pacific Rim. Beginning in 1971 with a single retail location in Seattle, Washington, Starbucks became a Fortune 500 company in 2003 with annual sales exceeding $4 billion. In addition, Starbucks is ranked as one of the 10 most admired companies in America and one of the 100 best companies to work For by Fortune magazine. It has been recognized as one of the “Most Trusted Brands” by Ad Week magazine. Business Ethics magazine placed Starbucks 21st in its list of the “100 Best Citizens” in 2003. Starbucks’ performance can be attributed to a passionate pursuit of its mission and adherence to six guiding principles. Both appear in Figure 1 found at the end of this case.

Starbucks continually emphasizes its commitment to corporate social responsibility. Speaking at the annual shareholders meeting in March 2004, Howard Schultz said:


From the beginning, Starbucks has built a company that balances profitability with a social conscience. Starbucks business practices are even more relevant today as consumers take a cultural audit of the goods and services they use. Starbucks is known not only for serving the highest quality coffee, but for enriching the daily lives of its people, customers, and coffee farmers. This is the key to Starbucks’ ongoing success and we are pleased to report our positive results to shareholders and partners (employees).
Each year, Starbucks makes public a comprehensive report on its corporate social responsibility initiatives. A central feature of this annual report is the alignment of the company’s social responsibility decisions and actions with Starbucks Mission Statement and Guiding Principles. The Starbucks 2003 Corporate Social Responsibility Report, titled “Living Our Values,” focused on six topical areas: ( a ) partners, ( b ) diversity, ( c ) coffee, ( d ) customers, ( e ) community and environment, and ( f ) profitability.
Starbucks employs some 74,000 people around the world. The company considers its employees as partners following the creation of Starbucks’ stock option plan in 1991, called “Bean Stock.” The company believes that giving eligible full- and part-time employees an ownership in the company and sharing the rewards of Starbucks’ financial success has made the sense of partnership real. In addition, the company has one of the most competitive employee benefits and compensation packages in the retail industry. Ongoing training, career advancement opportunities, partner recognition programs, and diligent efforts to ensure a healthy and safe work environment have all contributed to the fact that Starbucks has one of the lowest employee turnover rates within the restaurant and fast-food industry.
Starbucks strives to mirror the customers and communities it serves. On a quarterly basis, the company monitors the demographics of its workforce to determine whether they reflect the communities in which Starbucks operates. In 2003, Starbucks’ U.S. workforce was comprised of 63 percent women and 24 percent people of visible minorities. The company also is engaged in a joint venture called Urban Coffee Opportunities (UCO) created to bring Starbucks stores to diverse neighborhoods. There were 52 UCO locations employing almost 1,000 Starbucks partners at the end of 2003.
Supplier diversity is also emphasized. To do business with Starbucks as a diverse supplier, that company must be 51 percent owned, operated, and managed by women, minorities, or socially disadvantaged individuals and meet Starbucks requirements of quality, service, value, stability, and sound business practice. The company spent $80 million with diverse suppliers in 2003 and expected to spend $95 million with diverse suppliers in 2004.
Starbucks’ attention to quality coffee extends to its coffee growers located in more than 20 countries. Sustainable development is emphasized. This means that Starbucks pays coffee farmers a fair price for the beans; that the coffee is grown in an ecologically sound manner; and that Starbucks invests in the farming communities where its coffees are produced.
One long-standing initiative is Starbucks’ partnership with Conservation International, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting soil, water, energy, and biological diversity worldwide. Starbucks is particularly focused on environmental protection and helping local farmers earn more for their crops. In 2003, Starbucks invested more than $1 million in social programs, notably health and education projects that benefited farming communities in nine countries, from Columbia to Indonesia.
Starbucks serves customers in 39 countries. The company and its partners are committed to providing each customer the optimal Starbucks experience every time they visit a

store. For very loyal Starbucks customers, that translates into 18 visits per month on average.


Making a connection with customers at each store and building the relationship a customer has with Starbucks baristas, or coffee brewers, is important in creating the Starbucks experience. Each barista receives 24 hours of training in customer service and basic retail skills, as well as “Coffee Knowledge” and “Brewing the Perfect Cup” classes. Baristas are taught to anticipate the customers’ needs and to make eye contact while carefully explaining the various coffee flavors and blends. Starbucks also enhances the customer relationship by soliciting feedback and responding to patrons’ experiences and concerns. Starbucks Customer Relations reviews and responds to every inquiry or comment, often within 24 hours for telephone calls and e-mails.
Efforts to contribute positively to the communities it serves and the environments in which it operates are emphasized in Starbucks’ guiding principles. “We aren’t in the coffee business, serving people. We are in the people business, serving coffee,” says Howard Schultz. Starbucks and its partners have been recognized for volunteer support and financial contributions to a wide variety of local, national, and international social, economic, and environmental initiatives. For example, the “Make Your Mark” program rewards partners’ gifts of time for volunteer work with charitable donations from Starbucks. In addition, Starbucks is a supporter of CARE International, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting global poverty.
Starbucks is also committed to environmental responsibility. Starbucks has a longtime involvement with Earth Day activities. It has instituted companywide energy and water conservation programs and waste reduction, recycling, and reuse initiatives proposed by partner Green Teams.
At Starbucks, profitability is viewed as essential to its future success. When Starbucks’ guiding principles were conceived, profitability was included but intentionally placed last on the list. This was done not because profitability was the least important. Instead, it was believed that adherence to the five other principles would ultimately lead to good financial performance. In fact, it has.


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