Starbucks Coffee Saves Lives

Successful companies continue to enthusiastically embrace Corporate Social Responsibility and Corporate Volu

Successful companies continue to enthusiastically embrace Corporate Social Responsibility and Corporate Volunteering as core strategies to combat lean economic times.


I always thought “self-employed” had a sort of glamorous ring to it. That was until I got bored working from the house and started referring to my local Starbucks as, “the office.” I come here almost every day. I research, email, blog. I even hold meetings here. And yes, I do think of the Starbucks employees as my co-workers. Sigh….

But it’s not a bad place to claim, you know? It’s no secret that Starbucks has done something right as far as business models go – I mean, most of us can’t drive more than a few miles before seeing one. Lately, though, things seem to have taken a turn for the worse. Are we coming to the end of the Starbucks era?

Here are the facts: Starbucks recently closed 600 stores in the US. They posted their first ever loss since opening. Same-store sales are not projected to increase until 2009. The economy is unstable. Consumers are spending less. Credit is costing more. Investors are tense. The media is loud.

Is there anything Starbucks can do to bounce back? Decrease costs? Sure. Increase advertising presence? Ok. Save the world? Definitely. Wait…. what?

Yep, amid dire projections and bleak economic conditions Starbucks continues to demonstrate leadership and keen insight. Beginning this Thanksgiving (USA) through January 2nd, Starbucks will donate five cents of all holiday beverage sales to fund Africa Aids programs. The venture is in partnership with RED and was announced a few weeks back in New Orleans at a Starbucks leadership conference. Bono himself was on hand to announce the initiative. “This coffee will be beautiful because it’s going to chase away the ugliness of this tiny little virus, HIV,” Bono told the crowd of 10,000 store and district managers. He continued, “(RED) is coming to a corner near you thanks to Starbucks. I’m very excited to be able to say that. The business of Starbucks with roots in Africa and branches all over the world is an ideal fit for (RED). It’s pretty mind-blowing to think that millions of people can buy (RED) going about their daily lives and in doing so raise millions of dollars to fight AIDS in Africa. That’s not a bad hit from your caffeine.”

Besides the big-name stars lined up to lend their star power to the initiative like Mary Louise Parker and Annabella Sciorra, the most interesting piece of the campaign is the impact calculator. Customers are encouraged to go online and use the calculator to see how their purchases are saving lives. Talk about connecting customers/donors with outcomes.


In addition to this amazing initiative, Starbucks plans to contribute more than 1 million hours of volunteer work per year to the communities where they do business. They have also committed to increase their ethically sourced coffee purchases (including FAIR Trade) from 65 percent to 100 percent. Each store is also working towards increasing recycling and “significantly” reducing water use. (Read more about Starbucks Corporate Social Responsibility objectives).

Surprisingly, this all makes a lot of sense. Edelman’s study of consumer attitudes surveyed 6,000 people in ten countries. They found that 82% of women and 78% of men feel it is still important for companies to supportgood causes during a recession. Also, 68% of respondents stated that they would remain loyal to a brand that supported a good cause even during a recession.

Corporate Social Responsibility is no longer a charitable nicety. It is a winning strategy to strengthen the bottom line.

So watch for the commercials to start this Friday. Oh, and if you’re reading this in your own local Starbucks (ahem….the office), take a look at the front window: (11/28) That’s what I’m talking about.


About the author

At Realized Worth, we help companies connect with their communities. We do this through corporate volunteering and social media.