“Yay” on Starbucks’ Social Corporate Responsibility

causecapitalism.com Starbucks CSRStarbucks’ latest act of social responsibility is offering a free cup of joe to anyone who pledges 5 hours of volunteer time during the five-day promotion. The coffee retailer joined with nonprofit HandsOn Network to support Barack Obama’s national call for service and encourage individuals to ‘create the change they wish to see.’

Last December, Starbucks teamed up with (Product) RED to donate 5 cents of (RED) drink purchases to AIDS treatment and education programs. Although the program was criticized as offering too pithy a donation, in four weeks it raised funds to provide a year of therapy to more than 3,800 Africans with HIV.

On November 4th, Starbucks lauded political engagement by giving a free coffee to anyone sporting an ‘I voted’ sticker.

And then there was the exclusive distribution of Ethos Water. And before that, health care and living wages for Starbucks employees. And at its inception, fair trade coffee.

So why all the generosity, Starbucks?

The company was disparaged for its (RED) promotion and is widely viewed as a yuppie right of passage. Is it exercising altruism to offset yuppie guilt? I believe it’s the opposite. Starbucks (for its flaws and foibles) is leveraging its brand, reach and profits to effect real change. People are more familiar with fair trade coffee in large part due to Starbucks; sales of Ethos Water brought clean water to millions of children; job-seekers can be more discerning with employment opportunities, knowing that the coffee retailer offers health care; and 1.4 million daily doses of antiretroviral medication were paid for in four weeks through (RED) beverage purchases.

Starbucks has adopted practices that are both socially generous and financially advantageous, and that’s the idea of the game. Seventy-two percent of consumers have purchased a brand because it supports a cause they care about. Authentic cause marketing campaigns can boost a company’s sales by nearly 27%, bring it 52% closer to its target demographic and increase staff morale and retention by 56% (LOHAS Journal, Spring 2008). Starbucks is not perfect, but its leading an excellent crusade for social change–funding courtesy of you and me, the consumers.

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  1. Andrew Warner January 20, 2009 at 12:58 pm #

    I can’t remember a single billboard ad for Starbucks–and none have moved me. But commitments like this do have an impact and I’ll remember them for a long time.

  2. Prachi January 20, 2009 at 2:05 pm #

    Yeah I was not a fan of how they did the whole (Red) campaign, but I love what they do with Ethos.

  3. Kristina January 25, 2010 at 2:56 pm #

    Awesome points. Come to think of it, whenever I explain what CSR/CR/Sustainability is to someone, I use Starbucks’s campaigns as a prototype. Great blog, by the way!

  4. admin January 25, 2010 at 3:24 pm #

    Thanks, Kristina. I have a lot of respect for Starbucks’ policies. Next up for them is recyclable cups, so I hear. Excited to see this roll out.

  5. Jeff Butler May 3, 2011 at 11:44 am #

    I love love love this, it is so full oh happiness and it brings me joy. I would love to help out with this project.