Starbucks has worked hard to act ethically and responsibly. Has it donea good job communicating its efforts to consumers? Do consumers believe Starbucks is a responsible company? Why or why not?

Starbucks has done a good job communicating its efforts to act responsibly to consumers. Starbucks commands a premium price for coffee, and is able to do so in part because of its ability to market to consumers that they are getting a better cup of coffee, that has been ethically sourced and served by a responsible company. Starbucks utilizes in-store promotional material-including their cups, napkins, and bags- to communicate with consumers. The organization uses this medium to let their customer know about the responsible actions. Starbucks, in their annual Corporate Social Responsibility Report, notes “customers prefer to do business with a company they believe to be socially responsible” (Globalassets, 2008).

Ultimately, Starbucks delivers “shareholder value by creating value within the various communities” (Starbucks, 2011) where (the company) does business. The company participates in community service projects and donates money to local and global causes. They even named April 2012 “Global Month of Service” and used the opportunity to promote a coalition of outreach between Starbuck employees, customers, community members, and local organizations (Starbucks, 2012).

Environmentalists point out Starbuck’s responsible actions in blogs and websites, such as, which outlines Starbucks Corporate Social Responsibility report for its readers, and touts the company as socially and environmentally friendly (Dawson, 2011). To further communicate the message to consumers, Starbucks offers 10 cents off any beverage for those who bring in their own cup, and on Earth Day each year, the company celebrates by offering customers a free cup of coffee if they bring in their own cup. More than 1.2 million people took advantage of this offer in 2010 (Dawson, 2011) so the company is definitely getting the message out to consumers. In addition, Starbucks touts its message regarding ethics and social responsibility on its corporate website. Pages and pages of the site are dedicated to the company’s efforts in community service, ethical sourcing, environmental work, and global responsibility.

Outside of special holiday blends, it is rare to see an advertisement for Starbucks coffee, however, the company frequently spends money on advertisements to inform and educate consumers on its ethical sourcing of coffee beans and support of ethical sources that “conserve biodiversity, maintain healthy ecosystems and support economic and social development in coffee production” (Conservation International, 2012). The consumer is not only aware of Starbucks work in social and ethical causes; it is one of the driving forces that propel consumers to choose Starbucks.

Where does a company like Starbucks draw the line on supporting socially responsible programs? Forexample, how much of its annual budget should go toward there programs? How much time should employees focus on them? Which programs should it support?

Starbucks utilizes socially responsible programs to drive consumers into its stores. The company determines which programs and initiatives to support based upon the ones that are most likely to garner positive press and generate consumer interest and support. Starbucks Corporation’s Fiscal 2007 Corporate Social Responsibility Annual Report shows that the company increased the percentage of green (unroasted coffee purchases from the Coffee and Farmer Equity approved suppliers from 53 percent in one year to 65 percent in the following year, with the goal to remain at 65 percent. The company also shows that approximately six percent of the coffee beans it purchased were Fair Trade Certified, for both years, with no intention to set a higher goal. This indicates the Starbucks Company has determined that this is the amount of investment it takes to successfully report its involvement in the program, at the cost it is willing to expend to do so.




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