Last year, Fortune magazine named Howard Schultz, chairman and CEO of Starbucks, its businessperson of the year. The title was well-deserved. Since returning to the helm of the company, Schultz has steered Starbucks to prominence yet again with an eye to the future of the company. And whether you love or hate the coffee giant, you have to applaud some of their recent work to make the company more caring:
Politics not as usual
Schultz made a statement last year when U.S. politicians seemed to be fighting amongst themselves more than they were getting work done. Schultz's promise to not donate to any more sitting legislators caught the attention of many.
A new kind of bracelet
Starbucks announced the sale of a special bracelet, the profits of which will support businesses and ideas that create jobs. (This was in addition to the company adding 3,700 new employees in 2011.)
Healthcare for all
Even when Starbucks was floundering, Schultz refused to cut the health care benefits it offers to all employees.
The list continues with other great things Schultz has done and how those beliefs institutionalize themselves at Starbucks. Reading the article (which is overwhelmingly positive, as one might expect from a piece that confers an award on someone), it's easy to get excited about the notion of corporate social responsibility - the idea that business can (and should) be a positive force in communities and the world over.
Starbucks, because of its size, has a chance to do this in a very real and dramatic way. And this is good. If a large, publicly-traded, ubiquitous company can make a difference and make a profit, it will be a beacon to other companies - small and large - that doing good is good for business.
And, even though Schultz doesn't needs these suggestions, here are three ideas to continue Starbucks' tradition of making the world better:
Become a B Corp
This is a new, special designation for companies that are doing good in a variety of ways. While there are a few hoops to jump through, Starbucks would multiply the annual B Corp member revenues six times over. It would certainly be the largest B Corp, and in doing so, would send a very powerful statement to legislators to approve official designation of the B Corp status.
Get us to buy less
This is counter-intuitive for Starbucks, a company that relies on many of us going into their stories very frequently. But by acknowledging our addiction to buying things, Starbucks could help us all become better consumers by spending less. Patagonia figured out how to do it; I'm sure Starbucks could do the same in a meaningful, creative way.
Figure out the cup
They've been working for years on a recyclable cup. Could this be the year for a breakthrough? If so, they will revolutionize the food world (again).
What do you think?
Was Schultz a worthy pick, given all he's done for the company financially and socially? Could Starbucks be doing more? What are your ideas for how they can keep making the world a bit better?