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What is the Role and Responsibility of a For-Profit Public Company?

2015 global responsibility report

The 2015 Global Responsibility Report marks the end of a chapter for Starbucks, and a new beginning.

In 2008, Starbucks was fighting for its survival. The financial crisis triggered a global recession, and sales slowed for the first time in the company’s history. Tough decisions were made, stores were closed, and jobs eliminated. Commentators wondered aloud if Starbucks best days were behind us.

But in the midst of that crucible, Starbucks did not back away from our commitment to responsibility. Instead we announced a set of ambitious goals – committing that by 2015 we would improve ethical sourcing in coffee and throughout our supply chain, serve our communities and engage young people, and decrease the environmental footprint from our store operations.

Looking back, we can see the global impact that we have made in the seven years since we first put that stake in the ground. We nearly doubled our investment in alternative loan programs to $21.3 million from $12.5 million in 2008. We expanded our ethical sourcing program, and are on the cusp of helping make coffee the world’s first ethically sourced commodity. In 2008, nearly three-quarters of Starbucks coffee was certified or verified by a third-party as ethically sourced, and Starbucks had one Farmer Support Center.

In 2015, 99% of our coffee met that criteria and we expanded our outreach to farmers around the world with seven new Farmer Support Centers in Latin America, Asia and Africa. We broke ground on our first global agronomy center to develop sustainable farming practices to share with farming communities around the world.

In the areas of environmental performance, we have implemented rigorous green building as a standard practice in new construction projects and renovations. In 2008, we had one LEED® certified store, and today, we have more than 800, including the LEED® Platinum Starbucks® Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room in Seattle. We increased our purchases of renewable energy from 20% in 2008 to 100% in 2015, and exceeded an ambitious water conservation goal, reducing consumption more than 26% over 2008 – from 24 gallons of water per square foot of retail space to fewer than 18 gallons. While some environmental targets have been more difficult to achieve than expected, we have learned from these challenges and are working to find innovative environmental solutions.

We also have learned in the power of investing in communities and young people to make meaningful change. We elevated our partners’ global efforts, by creating our annual Global Month of Service, with 1,163 partner-led projects in April 2015 alone. Moreover, partners and customers have contributed more than 3 million hours of community service over the past seven years. From 2010-2012, we consistently achieved our goal of engaging more than 50,000 young people to innovate and take action in their communities and have since pivoted our focus to create pathways to employment for young people who face systemic barriers to opportunity.

We also found new opportunities. When we saw the need for employment for post 9/11-military service members and their families, we launched a new veteran’s hiring initiative. When we saw our partners (employees) struggling to earn their college degrees, we created the Starbucks College Achievement Plan with Arizona State University to offer full tuition reimbursement to eligible partners. And when we saw young people disconnected to jobs and school, we created the 100,000 Opportunities Hiring Initiative, leading a coalition of companies to offer meaningful jobs to thousands of opportunity youth.

We know we can do more. Later this year we will share a new set of aspirations that are higher than ever with a new set of 2020 goals. We will build on our efforts with partners, veterans, and opportunity youth. We will invest in farmers and their communities, and expand the global standard for green retail building and operations.