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Starbucks’ Howard Schultz: How to Lead, Care for Your Employees and … Make a Profit


JUST SAYIN’-Howard Schultz, Chairman, President, and CEO of Starbucks (headquartered in Seattle), is my idea of a genuine role model for big (and small) business—a hero to be emulated by Wall Street interests. 

He just announced another progressive measure his company is taking.  Soon all of his employees will be eligible for a full ride to the on-line college program at Arizona State University—considered to have the best on-line program in the nation!! 

If only 3% of its employees take advantage of this offering, it will cost the company about $50 million a year.  He believes strongly in the benefits accrued when what he calls value-sharing with his workers is applied.  Proof?  Starbucks stock keeps rising geometrically:  around $9 a share a year or so ago but recently passed $80 a share.  Yes, Wall Street, one can take care of one’s employees and still make a generous profit for shareholders. 

This company over the years has demonstrated the lowest levels of personnel attrition because of the loyalty its policies engender among the staff.  Schultz firmly believes that a company will endure only so long as it treats its employees fairly--with sensitivity and compassion.  Employees have even been able to take advantage of a stock-sharing program that is offered—can you imagine how much money they could have made if they bought at the $9 level?! 

He also believes that the business framework he has established is one that other companies should include in their own business structures. 

Furthermore, and perhaps of more immediate importance, is that Starbucks is going to pay $15 an hour to its barista employees!  Moo Cluck Moo  in Michigan has been using that standard since its recent inception but it is a single restaurant at this time.  Starbucks, obviously, is worldwide.  

Cities like Seattle and San Francisco have mandated $15 an hour wage plans.  San Francisco will fully implement its regulation before Seattle does in 2017.  The ruling in San Francisco, unlike Seattle, will apply to all employees within its borders (and not only to City employees). 

Learning from those companies and cities which have begun to raise wages unilaterally (not based on Federal mandate), other businesses (big and small) have had an epiphany and are beginning such wage programs of their own.  They recognize that Main Street and Wall Street can work together.  They have conceded that such partnerships are mutually compatible to both sides of the employer-employee nexus. 

On top of everything, Starbucks has long been a leader in encouraging environmental practices.  I visited a coffee bean plantation in Costa Rica with which Starbucks has a relationship.  The field workers were paid more than their counterparts and their working conditions had been upgraded.  Proper shade and letting fields lie fallow are just two practices that I observed. 

In addition, the land was utilized in a “green” way (something we are not presently doing in California).   Educational programs are currently being offered in other countries so that farmers can learn about modern methods that can save their crops and still make a comfortable profit.  We are beginning to introduce such ideas to our own farmers here (often meeting resistance, though). 

If you look carefully at Starbucks coffee bags before you purchase, you will see the mark that states the coffee product is produced under the auspices of Conservation International (CI) and further claims that Schultz’s company is a “proud partner in ethical coffee sourcing since 1998.” 

CI has long worked with Starbucks to “conserve biodiversity, maintain healthy eco-systems and support the millions of farmers who grow and supply coffee to the company as embodied in their commitment to ethical sourcing.”  In addition, another goal is to conserve the “rich, vital forests that combat global climate change.” 

Starbucks also promotes Fair Trade Practices.  “Responsibly grown and ethically traded” coffees are what we customers purchase when we imbibe these tasty beverages.  The program advances the practice of developing farmer support centers, loan programs, and forest conservation efforts—all of which lessen the impact of climate change and promise better futures for the farmer and farmhands. 

Starbucks worked with CI to create the CAFE (Coffee and Farmer Equity) Practices and are eager to share and partner with other companies (even competitors—think of what Tesla is eager to do now with its energy-conserving patents) to insure that all coffee plantations will work toward achieving the long-term sustainability of their lands. 

Starbucks also promotes the building of eco-friendly stores.  Its seeks LEED Certification at each location, works on reducing energy use while promoting renewable approaches, reduces the amount of water utilized in running the establishment, and designs new stores or remodels older ones that not only fit into the milieu of the neighborhood but also dramatically reduce the environmental impact of each store. 

Thus, it is possible for a company to be compassionate toward its employees, environmentally conscious, and profitable for its shareholders simultaneously.  We need more Howard Schultzes and more such stores as Starbucks.  Patronizing these stores would provide a good source for excellent coffee for the customer and for gifts for others.  Each of us would be doing the “green” thing while, at the same time, supporting fair practices for the employees who work so hard and so diligently to satisfy every patron. 

Just sayin’.


(Rosemary Jenkins is a Democratic activist and chair of the Northeast Valley Green Alliance. Jenkins has written Leticia in Her Wedding Dress and Other Poems, A Quick-and-Easy Reference to Correct Grammar and Composition and Vignettes for Understanding Literary and Related Concepts.  She also writes for CityWatch.)






Vol 12 Issue 51

Pub: June 24, 2014


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