Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


Starbucks customers get CSR with their coffee

July 2005

Starbucks is to host meetings in its UK coffee houses for local people to discuss corporate responsibility issues.

The global chain has been training dozens of employees this summer to help with running the meetings, which are intended to exploit its community links.

Scott Keiller, CSR and communications manager at Starbucks' London headquarters, told EP the company would build on a long tradition of coffee houses as meeting places. 'If we have one resource, then it's our stores and their presence in various communities, either near offices and workplaces or in neighbourhoods,' he said.

'A coffee shop is a place where people come together, and with about one million people a week coming into our stores we have a great opportunity to raise the profile of certain social issues. We want our stores to be a local community hub and informal space for people to come together to learn, to engage with our staff and others, and to work to improve their communities,' he added.

An important part of the effort will be a Coffee House Challenge, in which groups of eight to ten Starbucks customers and people living or working near shops are invited to 'identify and propose solutions to local challenges'.

The initiative builds on the success of a similar project held last year with the Royal Society of Arts to celebrate the 250th anniversary of its foundation in a coffee house. Some of the groups that met then have become permanent fixtures.

So far about 80 of the company's 450 UK stores have taken part, with Starbucks staff acting as facilitators. Awards will be presented in October to the groups that have come up with the most interesting ideas.

Other initiatives being developed in coffee houses are:

- the Seed project, in which groups of up to six women attend in-store 'discussions around life choices, female entrepreneurship and self-esteem', led by Starbucks staff. Starbucks outlets in Brighton and Oxford hosted meetings this year and a further 25 coffee houses will do so shortly. About 30 managers have received the necessary training.

- 90-minute gatherings of CSR professionals and stakeholders under the banner of dialogues @ Starbucks to discuss business and health, employee volunteering, CSR and the media, and other topical issues

- two-day in-store Workwise coaching courses for young people on work skills and interview techniques, led by district and store managers. The company plans courses in 20 locations by the end of the year.

Starbucks says that although the strategy will involve a 'huge investment' in staff time and training, it will deliver customer goodwill and better motivated and skilled staff, as well as show that the company is committed to helping communities where it trades.

It also believes stronger community links will counter allegations that it is an example of faceless globalization, colonizing high streets without regard to local sensibilities.

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