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Starbucks pledges to make its stores more inclusive by 2030

UPDATED: Mon., March 14, 2022

Starbucks announced Monday it will open or rebrand 1,000 community stores globally by 2030. The company launched the initiative in 2015.  (Associated Press)
Starbucks announced Monday it will open or rebrand 1,000 community stores globally by 2030. The company launched the initiative in 2015. (Associated Press)
By Lauren Rosenblatt Seattle Times

As Starbucks looks to expand its store portfolio, it’s turning to data.

Using a calculator that measures the self-defined “very basic ingredients of human well-being,” it plans to open more stores in communities that it thinks would benefit most from the jobs, community spaces and coffee.

Ahead of its annual shareholder meeting Wednesday, Starbucks says it’s looking to expand its commitment to inclusivity – both with accessible store designs and new locations in communities positioned to benefit from a new coffee joint. It announced Monday it will open or rebrand 1,000 community stores globally by 2030, expanding its community footprint by hundreds.

Starbucks launched its community store initiative in 2015, targeting neighborhoods in 15 U.S. cities to open stores in diverse, underrepresented neighborhoods and work with local leaders to create new opportunities for economic development and community engagement. It now has 150 community stores, including two in Seattle at White Center and Northgate at the Kraken Community Iceplex.

“We make an intentional commitment to local hiring, to working with local artists and being very intentional about creating physical gathering spaces for the community as well,” said Katie Young, senior vice president of global growth and development. “That’s a place where the community should see themselves reflected, because they are part of that store and they’ve helped us create it.”

Starbucks has partnered with Measure of America, a Brooklyn-based nonprofit that researches and analyzes human-development data, to use the Human Development Index, a way to calculate well-being that goes beyond “money metrics.”

To decide where to open each new location, Starbucks has turned to a calculator that measures “the very basic ingredients of human well-being: health, education and income.”

Young said Starbucks can’t break down its decision process into just one equation or algorithm because it’s “more of a balance” that looks at multiple factors across the community. Starbucks is “not just looking for average income,” she said. “It’s actually looking at the area, that specific area, and saying will this benefit from job creation?”

Young did not disclose what locations Starbucks is considering.

Starbucks also committed Monday to update its stores’ physical and digital experience by 2030 to be more accessible.

To start, it’s creating new inclusive design standards by “mapping” the coffee experience.

Young says the company is breaking it down into steps – open the door, walk to the barista, place your order, grab your drink, etc. – and finding “all those possible places when somebody got left behind.”

“What we realize is that by looking so systematically at these points of exclusion, and thinking about how we can open up a welcoming space, we’ve made it better for everyone, including our partners,” Young said.

Starbucks has opened 11 “signing stores” for the deaf and hard of hearing community to connect through sign language. It offers a free service to connect people who are blind or have low-vision with a visual interpreter to provide access to visual information about the customer’s surroundings through a smartphone app.

It plans to test new speech-to-text technology that will allow store employees and customers to see a conversation in real-time, as well as an order status board that will help customers see where their order is and confirm when it’s ready.

Young declined to disclose how much Starbucks was investing in its accessibility framework and new community stores.

While Starbucks looks to expand its store portfolio, workers are increasingly considering unionization to gain more control in store policies around staffing, shift scheduling and safety protocols. Six of the 9,000 Starbucks stores have voted to unionize and many more have started union campaigns.

Asked if the latest announcements are in response to worker’s demands for changing working conditions, Young said the company remains “deeply committed to listening and hearing our partners and communities.”Starbucks announced its new inclusivity initiatives days before its annual shareholder meeting.

In a proposal slated for Wednesday’s meeting, shareholders are requesting the board of directors oversee an annual public report describing the effectiveness and outcomes of company efforts to prevent harassment and discrimination against employees.

It asks the report to include the number and dollar amount of disputes settled by the company, the average length of time it takes to resolve harassment complaints, the number of complaints that are pending and whether the company includes nondisclosure clauses in employment agreements.

The board of directors is recommending shareholders vote against the proposal because the company already has a “continuing commitment to create and maintain a respectful workplace,” according to Starbucks’ filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

“Such reporting would also divert resources from focusing on our continuous efforts to improve our partners’ experiences and deliver on our partner promise,” the filing read.

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