A More Inclusive Starbucks

In a letter to U.S. partners, chief global inclusion and diversity officer Dennis Brockman reflects on Starbucks ongoing journey to be a more inclusive, welcoming third place.

Dear Partners,

I was exposed to the realities of Jim Crow at an early age.  Segregation, disparities in health, wealth, housing, and employment weren’t an anomaly, they were life. The idea that a young Black boy could dream of one day going to college and aspire to be something great existed in my home with my mother and siblings, in my church, and within my community, but the dream often stopped there.  Like many Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), we’re encouraged to dream big and then we’re taught to keep those dreams to ourselves out of fear that someone might question our desire for more – our desire for true freedom and autonomy.

It wasn’t until the Civil Rights Movement, spearheaded in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s by leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Cesar Chavez, Yuri Kochiyama, Marsha P. Johnson, Madonna Thunder Hawk, Judith Ellen “Judy” Heumann, and hundreds of others, that this country began to witness a shift in racial and other discriminatory attitudes. These efforts influenced policies to address school segregation, unfair employment and housing laws, and voter suppression practices, but the movement did not put an end to the narrative of racial and social inequity deeply embedded in this country’s history.

Fast forward several decades, and we’ve welcomed a new era of civil rights activists and community leaders, many of whom are our partners, who face 21st century social justice issues such as the senseless murder of George Floyd, the unexplainable violence against Asian Americans, the disproportionate toll COVID-19 has had on Latinx and Black people, a slew of anti-transgender legislation, and the millions of refugees, undocumented, and displaced people around the world.  Sadly, the list can go on and on.

While I wish I had the antidote to dismantle systemic discrimination, I do not. But I do believe in the power of civic engagement and role it plays in social change. And I have faith in knowing that more than 50 years ago, a different kind of company was born that put people at the center. And these people, our partners, have been a catalyst for change in the U.S. and around the world.  Through their commitment to their communities and one another, partners have demonstrated anything is possible when guided by a mission to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.

We haven’t always gotten it right, and we have experienced setbacks, but we’ve taken those setbacks and turned them into opportunities to grow and to be better.  You hold us accountable, and I am grateful for that.  We will always listen to our partners because your thoughts, feelings, and perspectives matter. That’s why, last year, Starbucks took a series of actions that would accelerate our journey to advance racial and social equity for our partners and our communities with intentionality, transparency, and accountability. 

It’s not enough to share these words in one message, our work must be realized through action.  Tomorrow we will share some details on our continued commitment to becoming a more inclusive company and instill that within all the communities we serve.

These commitments are in addition to the actions we’ve already taken on the realization of our vision to create an inclusive Starbucks. We all have a role to contribute and its with that purpose in mind that we continue to invest in these areas for all partners. Learning comes by doing, and that’s what we are committed to.

As a 14-year partner, I’ve prided myself in living Starbucks Mission and Values with a clear approach: real inclusion requires intent. When we do that, we have the power to reframe and normalize diversity.  Actions that nurture and embrace our exquisite cultural intricacies provide proof that we are committed to real change, not an award-winning performance.  I do not take this work lightly – we’ve made great strides, but we cannot lose momentum and must move faster to accelerate the change necessary and imperative to ensure Starbucks is the brand of choice in being the most diverse, inclusive, equitable and accessible company.    

I began this letter with a little about my personal life and journey because if we do not understand our history, we are undoubtedly destined to repeat it.  For fifty years, Starbucks has been led by its Mission and Values.  Through intentionality, transparency, and accountability, I believe we will continue to make substantial change on behalf of all our partners. I am proud of how this company has evolved, and I’ve never been prouder to be your partner.

Sincerely,
Dennis Brockman

“What we do is more important than what we say, or what we say we believe.”
-Gloria Jean Watkins, American author, professor, feminist, and social activist