I read in the newspaper yesterday morning that Starbucks has achieved an incredible milestone for the ethical sourcing of virtually all its coffee – 99%! This means that more than 400 million pounds of coffee served globally meets really tough economic, environmental and social standards for growers from whom they buy their coffee. According to Starbucks’ website, they take a “comprehensive approach to ethical sourcing, using responsible purchasing practices; farmer support; economic, social and environmental standards; industry collaboration and community development programs.” And it’s all verified by third parties like C.A.F.E. (Coffee and Farmer Equity) Practices, Fairtrade and Certification Global Services. There is much to admire in Starbucks’ commitment to and execution in the ethical sourcing of its primary physical ingredient and I believe this achievement connects to what we could call the ethical sourcing of talent.
Starbucks also recently announced that it is making a full four-year college degree available without cost to all of its more than 140,000 full- and part-time partners (employees) through Arizona State University’s online degree program. Let’s see… Ethical sourcing of coffee beans from farmers all over the world and offering full college tuition coverage to tens of thousands of employees. I see a consistency of approach to trustworthy leadership here that is hard to find today anywhere in the world.
There are thousands of organizations all over the world that are serious about their corporate social responsibility commitments. They have programs that are helping to build communities, reduce environmental impact, improve the public health, educate young people – the list goes on and on. But these are programmatic approaches reliant upon individual leader commitments, not essential strands of the warp and woof of the organization’s foundation. As an observer of corporate culture, I find it rare to observe an organization that sees every aspect of the business as part of the whole cloth of social responsibility. Starbucks certainly sets the bar high in this regard. From a talent acquisition perspective, paying full college tuition for 100% of your employees is the most ethical sourcing strategy imaginable. And it makes sense when it’s lined up next to ethically sourcing 99% of its primary ingredient, coffee beans.
Trustworthy leadership is reliable in its consistency, transparency and ethical behavior. Starbucks is a pretty great example of this.