Friday, April 23, 2010

Starbucks online report 2009

Got a DM from Ashley Jablow, brilliant #CSR blogger at the who referred me to the new Starbucks online CSR Report and says: "Thought of you when I saw SBUX new CSR report online - curious to get your take as a reporting pro?! "  (Hope you don't mind me publicizing your DM, Ashley!). Anyone who knows me, knows I am a sucker for reporting questions, so I took a look at the report.

The first thing that stikes you as you land on the home page are the 13 little icons that display the Goals and Status in all the key areas of the Starbucks sustainability program. These are not just ordinary icons. They are aminated icons. As you plop your cursor on each one, the icon does its thing, wiggles around, changes size, the wind-turbine rotates, the recyclable cup squashes into a ball of waste, the trees move with the wind, the sun shines, the building lights up, the fairtade coffee beans jump from hand to hand and more. It's really neat. I thought to myself, What better way to get people to click through ALL the icons, just to see what they are going to do, and in the process, learn about the way Starbucks has progressed in its CSR goals? Most of us are kids at heart, right? Clicking though animated icons is like a kids game. It a neat way to make CSR communications fun.

The rest of the report is nicely put together, taking advantage of many of the online pyrotechnics that are available today. As you double-click on each goal area, you get to a page describing the progress towards the goals in more detail and a further click brings you to the story and how Starbucks have done what they did. Nice design, compact, engaging presentation.

However. If I stop rolling my cursor around the fascination of the jumping icons, I find some elements that I would expect to see in a sustainability report are missing. For example, whilst Startbuck maintain several collaborative relationships, which is a sign of a mature approach to business and sustainability, there is no dancing icon for stakeholder engagement and description of stakeholder dialogues and feedback to Starbucks about concerns and aspirations. Although Starbuck's talk about engaging millions of consumers and getting their feedback, linking to the new Shared Values blog, there is only actually one post by a Starbucks Marketing Manager and no feedback from any consumers to date. Interestingly, there is no flip-flop icon which points to the way Starbucks addresses its responsibilites as a responsible employer, creating a responsible workplace. Nothing at all relating to workplace practices and employee engagement. Achievements against goals in the downloadable scorecard are impressive, but it's not clear what Starbucks are committing to in the future - some targets run thru to 2015, some to 2012 and some stop in 2009. What's on the menu for 2010/2011 ? The assurance statement covers only coffee purchasing practices.What about milk ? And other raw materials? I couldnt find data about Starbucks overall environmental footprint, and the entire scope of retail practices in the Starbucks business are not covered. So, this is a very partial report, focusing only on a limited number of Starbucks sustainability elements, but doing so in a very engaging way. 

I will add that from my perspective as an external stakeholder who tracks sustainability practices and reporting, I do feel that Starbucks are doing good stuff. Their three overarching focus areas of ethical sourcing, community involvement and environmental stewardship are important and Starbucks is making focussed progress and doing some really exciting things, such as the Farmer Loans program. However. sustainability reporting and transparency should be more comprehensive. Starbucks has had its share of criticsms leveled at its retail practices, supply chain issues, union busting, wasting water in stores, low wages, etc  and it would be of interest to see how this Company is behaving in all areas of impact, not only the ones it has, apparently unilaterally, selected, significant as these may be.

Anyway, off to try a Chunky Monkey macchiato, now. Suggest you stop playing around with those icons and do the same! Thanks Ashley, for providing me with the inspiration for this blop. 

elaine cohen is the CEO of Beyond Business, a leading social and environmental consulting and reporting firm. Visit our website at 



Enjoyed your entertaining review of Starbucks CSR report. At MIT Sustainability conference recently a Starbucks exec stated that they view their social responsibility efforts as garnering permission to operate in communities aroud the world. This shift in view is overdue at many large companies.

Given the shift the lack of employee engagement information is surprising. Seems one of the main benefits Starbucks would be seeking is to engage their millenial workforce in these causes, since those same millenials are writing the rules of the social media venues Starbucks covets--see April 30 post.

Amanda P. said...

Thanks for writing on Starbucks CSR; I will have to check out their report (enjoyed your commentary). I just wrote a post on Starbucks CSR as well, from my personal experience there:

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