This is a story of a business that has always tried to be a different kind of company. It’s a story of an incident of racial bias in one of the brand’s stores—and how that moment galvanized a national effort to confront racial bias, and reaffirm an intention to ensure all Starbucks stores are places that are welcoming of all. It’s told through a diverse set of voices: the Starbucks leaders and team members, critical advisors, and design partners who led the efforts over an 18-month period.
There are thousands of leaders at the core of this story, which touches almost 200,000 Starbucks partners, and millions of customers. Here are some of the people who appear in this article—leaders from various disciplines and backgrounds.
Howard Schultz, chairman emeritus, Starbucks
Kevin Johnson, ceo, Starbucks
Roz Brewer, group president and coo, Starbucks
Rossann Williams, evp and president, US Retail, Starbucks
Vivek Varma, chief transformation officer, Starbucks
Heather McGhee, Distinguished Senior Fellow, Demos
Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund
Keith Yamashita, Founder, SYPartners
Jennifer, partner, Starbucks
Arthur, partner, Starbucks
Jeremy, social media team, Starbucks
Rie Nørregaard, Principal, Creative Direction and Partnerships, SYPartners
Eric Holder, former U.S. Attorney General and Starbucks advisor
Jonas Nwuke, Vice President, Strategic Initiatives, SYPartners
Kendra Cooke, Principal, User Experience, SYPartners
Zabrina Jenkins, vice president assistant general counsel of Global Litigation and Employment and interim ceco, Starbucks
Where Does This Story Start?
Affirm mission and values.
As a purpose-driven company, our mission and values both define who we want to be and set the guardrails for which behaviors we cannot accept. So this work, like all meaningful work here, starts with our mission and what we value.
Start together, with powerful shared experiences.
At Starbucks, we work as a team, and we are all partners in our success. When we share powerful experiences, they shape our mindset, they give us shared language, they commit us to positive action. May 29—as a day when we closed our stores to begin a new conversation about racial bias—was the first of several shared experiences we will undertake.
Teach creating belonging as a life skill.
With a positive aspiration set, we now invest in all our partners to learn the life skills of creating welcoming, belonging and inclusive leadership. We will draw on mindscience. We will lean into experiential learning to help us all master new rituals and habits. This will be fueled by a gathering of store managers in late 2019 to practice and continue our learning—together.
Innovate with diversity and inclusion at the core.
Over our nearly 50-year history, Starbucks has advanced what it means to be a public company—achieving the fragile balance between profit and societal impact. We understand that going forward, we must put diversity and inclusion at the heart of every innovation even more centrally than we ever have before. This is about all efforts that touch the business.
Transcend the hierarchy. Do the work together.
Representation matters. We must see the invention of the future through many different sets of eyes if we are to truly build a future that we all want to be part of. Starbucks has been on a path to diversify our board, our senior leadership ranks, our headquarters’ team and our stores’ teams. We are creating more conditions for many partners to participate in the making of the next Starbucks.
Create systemic inclusion in how we work, our policies and our beliefs.
As leaders, sometimes we fail to recognize just how much of our own thinking, behavior, decisions, policy-setting and responses are influenced by the greater society’s biases. At Starbucks, we are trying to become more conscious of such forces, and actively confront them in how the company is structured, how we lead, how we collaborate and how we make decisions.
A Bold Move Fueled by Critics, Believers and Partners
A Massive Design Effort
Color Brave, Not Color Blind
Shared Experiences Are the Motivation and Common Language
Whole-Human Design: The Only Hope
Realization #1: The role of Starbucks as a welcoming ‘third place’ needed a serious examination.
Realization #2: Leaders are learners, too.
Realization #3: Building a sense of goodwill would be vital—we had to create a safe space.
Realization #4: Representation has to become our modus operandi.
Realization #5: When given the chance, humans rise to their best selves.
May 29: A Day of Conversation, Personal Reflection and Peace
WE’LL SEE YOU TOMORROW
At Starbucks we are proud to be a third place—a place between home and work where everyone is welcome. A place where everyone feels they belong.
Today, our store team is reconnecting with our mission and with each other. We are sharing our ideas about how to make Starbucks even more welcoming.
We look forward to seeing you when we reopen at ___________.
Multimedia Training to Guide the Groups
The Making of a Much-Deeper Curricula
- Creating an Inclusive Environment with Sinéad Burke
- Be a Community Builder with Cleo Wade
- Leaning into Discomfort with LB Hannahs
- Courageous Leadership with Brené Brown
- Mindful Decision Making with Mel Robbins
- Sharing your Story with Shonda Rhimes
- Conversations on Mental Health with Esme Weijun Wang
An Open Source Approach
The 2019 Leadership Experience
Partner Feedback Has Been Decidedly Positive
- Assess any given situation,
- Consider the implications and possible outcomes, and
- Take action to maintain their third-place environment.