In conversation over coffee with Russell Butcher discussing Starbucks refugee hiring commitments and programmes 

June marks the month of World Refugee Day and acknowledging this year’s theme of ‘Solidarity with Refugees’, Starbucks continues to raise awareness and celebrate the strength and courage of the millions of people who are forcibly displaced from their home country. 

At the end of 2023, it was estimated that more than 100 million people worldwide were forcibly displaced*. In EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa), we are at the epicentre of this with the highest proportion of refugees and forced movement**. 

Last week, Starbucks spotlighted some of the amazing partners who have joined us through the refugee hiring programmes. Today, in conversation over a coffee with Russell Butcher, Director of Strategic Programmes, Partner Resources at Starbucks EMEA, we hear more about the initiatives and continuing commitments to supporting the refugee community. 

What is Starbucks commitment and the initiatives that are in place? 

Starbucks has always set out to be a different kind of company, one that prides itself on the diversity of its workforce and how we purposefully set out to create a bridge to a better future.  

The number of refugees continues to rise every year and we globally, employ in excess over 300,000 partners, including in many of the prominent countries to which refugees resettle. The biggest asset we have is our global scale and opportunity to help create new livelihoods. This is one of the key reasons why iwe set out on this work, back in 2018    

We launched our unique Refugee Hiring Programme, first in the UK, partnering with leading NGOs such as Refugee Council UK and Tent Partnership for Refugees (Tent) to deliver pre-employment training programmes and support refugees in accessing job opportunities in store.  

Can you tell us more about what this means for here in EMEA? 

As of last year, globally Starbucks has directly hired more than 5,500 refugees, which includes over 1,500 here in EMEA, with this figure continuing to grow. These are the headlines of the number of refugees partners that we can reconcile as joining the business, however our impact has been much more expansive, and we’ve reached many more refugees via our pre-employment training programme. 

We first launched the programme as a pilot initiative in the UK and since then its success has seen it rolled out across 10 other markets within EMEA, including in markets such as Germany and France which has yielded great success. .  Starbucks EMEA continues to build on this existing work and remains deeply committed to doubling down on efforts to support the resettlement of refugees and our partners. 

What are some of challenges that refugees face when seeking employment in a new country? 

Finding a new job can be immensely challenging, without the added complexities that come with rebuilding a new life in an unfamiliar place. Common challenges many refugees face include many more than the obvious language barriers: a lack of recognition of and understanding around existing qualifications; discrimination; diminished self-confidence; lack of resource to find and source opportunities; cultural differences; and that is to name just a few 

We  play a crucial role in supporting refugees by creating more opportunities and supporting them through securing and starting a new job. Adapting recruitment processes, providing specific pre-employment training, and creating welcoming and inclusive environments are just some examples of changes we have implemented  to make starting a job more accessible and achievable. 

As mentioned, we also partner with expert partners such as the Refugee Council UK and Tent who have a deeper understanding of the experience of refugees and their holistic needs.  

What benefits has the programme brought to Starbucks? 

Refugees bring many of the winning attributes and skills we look for in a partner (employee), a vast wealth of talent, knowledge and experience and a diverse perspective that enhances what we do at Starbucks. We’re extremely proud of the part they play in bringing the Starbucks Experience to the varied communities we serve, every day.  

For us however, it goes beyond what refugees bring to Starbucks, because we look to create new pathways for refugees to create new livelihoods, at or beyond Starbucks. In the UK for example, and working in collaboration with the Refugee Council UK, we’ve built a programme that delivers training to support refugee integration to help them rebuild their lives through employment which over 400 refugees have joined. Of these, nearly 200 have joined us as partners and 93 have developed the skills and confidence to take on roles elsewhere.  

Across EMEA we see consistent positive feedback from our operators and tangible results – with our in-work retention metric (after 12 months) peaking much higher than our business as usual, offering a real win-win all round.  

We’re also delighted on the talent pipeline refugees have given us, with many case studies now of partners who have progressed and been promoted from barista to supervisor, store manager and Support Centre (head office) positions. The fact that we now have refugees hiring other refugees is truly amazing.  

How have employees and customers responded to the initiative? 

We’ve been delighted with how our partners and customers have responded to the initiative. Key to our success is how our partners on the ground have been inspired by our commitment and personally motivated to make the programme operate as effective as possible. This has ranged from many partners actively taking part in our pre-employment training workshops, and hosting specific hiring events, through to those who have simply created a culture of belonging - welcoming and supporting refugees into their stores as new partners.  

Starbucks work with refugees is a key part of our commitment of being a values-led company and to building a more inclusive and diverse environment to benefit our partners and customers and the communities they live in.  

*Data from the UN Refugee Agency:  

** Data from the UN Refugee Agency  

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Starbucks UK and Hubbub are funding 100 green spaces for communities across the UK