Outdoor Retailer Summer Market '07: OIA Breakfast speaker tells how Starbucks’ vision embraces sustainability

Kicking off the first morning of the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, Starbucks’ director of environmental affairs told attendees at the OIA Breakfast that nailing down your company’s mission, its goal and taking a few risks are key stepping stones to marching ahead in the world of sustainability.
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Kicking off the first morning of the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, Starbucks’ director of environmental affairs told attendees at the OIA Breakfast that nailing down your company’s mission, its goal and taking a few risks are key stepping stones to marching ahead in the world of sustainability.

“Don’t be afraid to ask for things that have never been done,” Ben Packard told the packed room. “And don’t be afraid to ask ‘why’ – why hasn’t this been done. And continue to ask ‘why.’”

Sponsored by SmartWool and Gore-Tex, the breakfast session started with a coffee tasting of a Mexican blend that came from a farm that he explained Starbucks had helped to survive and to grow in a sustainable way. An army of green-aproned Starbucks’ employees marched out with trays of teeny paper cups filled with the brew and distributed them to each person. Packard then asked attendees to swirl, sniff and slurp (with a slurping noise) to get the full feel of its aroma, acidity and body.

“What I hope to leave with you is the critical nature of partnerships,” he said, using the coffee-tasting from Mexican beans as an example.

His talk was sprinkled with valuable messages about taking part in a process with your business to find its core values, its mission and goals, but he also spent a good chunk of the 50-minute presentation showing videos of very, very happy Starbucks’ employees glowing about how much they love their employer.

Packard told attendees the questions to ask were:

  • What’s your mission?
  • What’s your goal?
  • How will you know when you get there?
  • Are there complementary benefits?
  • What’s the core of your business?
  • Who are your allies in achieving those goals?
  • What are the risks of doing nothing?
  • What are the risks of not doing enough?
  • What are the risks of being really bold?

“We believe our commercial success cannot be disengaged with sustainable business practices,” Packard said, “not only in our operations but also in our supply chain.”

With growth from 80,000 pounds of beans in 1998 to 3 million pounds last year, he said that keeping farmers growing in a sustainable way helps them survive. Coffee, he pointed out, is the second most highly traded legal commodity in the world and, as an industry, supports 25 million people globally with a current growth of about 20 percent to 25 percent annually.

“What I hope to leave you with is the critical nature of partnerships,” he said.

For Starbucks, the company and its partnerships are opening on average seven stores a day around the world and now has 14,400 stores (or did in mid-August!) in 41 countries. In the part of the message that was promoting Starbucks, Packard pointed out that the company helps stimulate economic development, provides a place for the community to meet and is respectful of the community’s character and needs. He said Starbucks works to engage at a local level as well as invest in the local community where it is. Of the 36 million it gave to non-profits in 2006, a little more than half went to the local communities where it does business.

For Starbucks, the goal is “growing big but staying small.”

“No matter what your size,” he concluded, “everybody has an opportunity to make a difference.”

To read Starbucks’ 2006 corporate social responsibility annual report, click here. To read more about its CSR program and affiliations, click here.

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