7-1 Blog: Green for Profit or Green for the Environment?

I have chosen to discuss Starbucks as the retail brand that I believe to be socially and ethically responsible. Starbucks has shown over and over again that they not only care about their employees (who they call “partners”) but they go to extreme efforts when it comes to their social and ethical responsibilities on a global scale.

Let’s begin by addressing the way they source their products. Starbucks coffee has been ethically sourced and purchased for over 15 years. “We’ve stood with coffee farmers on their land, gotten to know their names and their families. We have seen for ourselves the good that happens when 170,000 farmers and Starbucks work together. It has the power to change the entire industry. More than 15 years ago we committed ourselves to 100% ethically sourced coffee. We’re investing in the farmers themselves and their communities. And we are sharing our agricultural knowledge, research and best practices openly with all farmers, whether we buy coffee from them or not, allowing everyone to farm better. We depend on each other—our futures are linked. Starbucks is dedicated to building that future with coffee farmers, together.” (Starbucks, 2018Starbucks maintains that the relationship with those people they are purchasing coffee beans from is always in the forefront of their partnerships with them. The way they’re “investing in the farmers themselves and their communities” is such a great example of how other companies should view their affiliations with their manufacturers. They care about not just where the coffee beans come from, but the people farming them.

Another very clear way that Starbucks stands out as a socially and ethically responsible brand is the way they treat the employees. I actually worked for Starbucks for about two and a half years in my early twenties. While it wasn’t always pleasant dealing with customers, it was one of my favorite jobs because of the people I worked with and the way the company valued me, even as a simple barista. I was able to take part in in-house company training to work toward promotions, which I did, quickly becoming a shift supervisor. Starbucks also offers a generous college plan through ASU (Arizona State University Online), and will pay up to 42% of your tuition! The “education” link here, has frequently asked questions that explain how this program works.

As far as incidents that Starbucks has faced in relation to conducting business in an ethical or socially responsible manner, they are currently facing a pollution predicament regarding their cup and straw waste. “A recent resolution from the nonprofit corporate watchdog As You Sow slammed Starbucks for continuing to provide most customers with single-use plastic cups despite the company’s Greener Cup initiative and criticized the coffee giant’s role in promoting the global to-go coffee culture. As You Sow’s objective is to bring to shareholders’ attention Starbucks’s negligence to fulfill its environmental promises. According to the resolution, Starbucks has fallen dramatically short on meeting an ambitious 2008 commitment to make 25 percent of its cups reusable by 2015.” according to a 2017 Sierra Club article by Davis Harper. This article discusses Starbucks failure to meet company-made goals for environmental responsibility. Legally, they don’t face any issues, but critics are quick to point out any blemishes on Starbucks’ shiney record. Because Starbucks is globally known for their above average social and economical sense of responsibility, even an incident that isn’t illegal is something they want taken care of with public relations as swiftly as possible.

I feel as though Starbucks is in between “‘green’ for profit” and “‘green’ for the environment.” They’ve built their empire on the rock of social and ethical responsibility but haven’t been quiet about it. When Starbucks makes strides to improve their employee and customer experience, everyone hears about it. They push the envelope to meet environmental commitments and ethical goals which is great for everyone involved, and has a huge impact on Starbucks’ bottom line.
References:

Harper, David. 2017, November 21. Sierra Club. Starbucks Falls Short on Environmental Commitments. Retreived from https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/starbucks-falls-short-environmental-commitments

2018. Starbucks: Careers. Future leaders start here. Retrieved from https://www.starbucks.com/careers/working-at-starbucks/education

2018. Starbucks: News. Coffee & Company: Starbucks named one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies. Retrieved from https://news.starbucks.com/news/starbucks-worlds-most-ethical-companies-2018

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