CSR: One Cup at a Time

Starbucks is a quintessential example of a company that is both doing well and doing good. Roughly 10.5 million people consume Starbucks coffee in a given day and I am one of them! I decided to do some research on their business practices since I interact with the brand so often.

I began by learning Starbucks’ mission statement: “Our mission: to inspire and nurture the human spirit — one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.” Starbucks prominently boasts a “responsibility” page on their website. Their efforts can be categorized into environmental, sourcing, and community efforts. Additionally they release an annual Global Responsibility Report that focuses goals and progress. To supplement my research I read an interview with the Vice President of Global Responsibility, Ben Packard.

Starbucks has made environmental strides in their new store locations. All new, company-owned locations are required to be at least silver LEED certified. They focus on using recycled materials and they are striving to reduce their use of paper cups in general. Packard shares that 20% of coffee is consumed in house so they’re trying to capitalize on this opportunity to use ceramic mugs.

In regards to sourcing, Starbucks has vowed to have 100% of their coffee ethically sourced by 2015. Currently, 95% of their coffee is ethically sourced. They ensure and define ethical sourcing by strict standards, investing in the community and philanthropy efforts.

Lastly, Starbucks is committed to the communities in which they serve. They refer to employees as partners and show their dedication to them with stipends for college education, equity-based compensation, and generous 401K plans. Personally, I believe that one of the greatest things Starbucks provides is a customer experience that facilitates interactions, innovation, and creativity. I recently read Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson and he discusses the “Liquid Network.” This theory suggests that ideas are fluid networks that need to be nurtured and inspired by interactions and experiences. Environments, like Starbucks, promote collaboration and inspiration which facilitates the generation of new ideas.


7 responses to “CSR: One Cup at a Time

  1. Starbucks’ latest Global Responsibility Report states that the company has more big goals for 2015 in addition to 100% ethical sourcing. Starbucks plans to increase its loans to local farmers to $20 million, reduce water and energy consumption in stores by 25%, and have front-of-store recycling in all of its US locations. It will be interesting to see these changes implemented in upcoming years.



  2. While Starbucks is doing a lot, it seems that there is so much more that they could accomplish. They are a market leader in coffee, with the capability of changing the industry completely, but they continue to use paper cups, plastic lids, heavy air conditioning, and overcharge for coffee.


    • Starbucks had an initial goal of providing 25% of coffee in ceramic cups by 2015. However, they reduced this goal to 5% after they learned that asking the customer their cup preference detracted from the customer experience. This example can serve microcosm of the shareholder vs. stakeholder debate. Air conditioning and ease of ordering are essential components of their customer experience, which is what Starbucks is known for. I recently read in an article called “Good Design: More Than Just A Chair,” and it states Starbucks has managed to turn a commodity into an experience. I think it would be myopic for them to forego essential components of their customer experience since it is so crucial to their business model. Change cannot happen overnight.


      • I think that you bring up a good point. However, I continue to share Dan’s frustration. The unfortunate truth is that if a customer doesn’t like something, they will complain and potentially stop returning. However, I feel that Starbucks has a large enough market share to continue to asking customers their cup preference. One of the points of corporate social responsibility is for a company to be responsible because that is what the company stands by. If learning that “asking the customer their cup preference detracted from the customer experience” (which, quite honestly, sounds ridiculous to me) leads Starbucks to take a step back on their efforts toward CSR, then how committed can Starbucks really be?


      • It seems to me that Starbucks has good intentions to make improvements, but we are not seeing much action. The biggest result that I have noticed is some great publicity for Starbucks because of these plans. But how do we know that their plans are effective? For example, it is possible for LEED certified buildings to use just as much energy if not more energy than standard buildings. So while their intentions may be good, it would be nice to see Starbucks being a little more transparent about the results.


    • Steven Johnson is the author of the book, “Where Good Ideas Come From,” that I referenced above when discussing Liquid Networks. Liquid Networks are networks of ideas that form from unlikely collisions of different ideas and people. He emphasizes the need for spaces that facilitate this type of interaction such as coffee shops and open floor plan offices. The theory is that there is no “aha!” or “eureka!” moment, just a slow forming idea that comes from this network of smaller ideas. For example, he explains that most scientific breakthroughs happen in conference rooms, not in the actual labs. These breakthroughs happen when scientists all come together and discuss their findings, problems, and insights.

      Ideas are not discipline specific. We should be drawing from different backgrounds and taking from one field and lending to another field. This book and the TED Talk are two of the many inspirations that I’ve had for my coffee shop business plan that I mentioned on Monday. I highly recommend reading it or at least watching his short talk. There are six other principles just as good! It really validates what Starbucks has created within their store environment in regards to facilitating creativity, innovation, and ultimately new ideas.

      TED Talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/steven_johnson_where_good_ideas_come_from)



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