New Starbucks Partner Group Seeks to ‘Make the Green Apron Even Greener’

After a year and a half of laying the groundwork, a unique Starbucks partner (employee) resource group is ramping up for an ambitious 2016.

Partners for Sustainability aims to have an impact worldwide, according to Susan Long, co-chair of the group and a member of Starbucks Global Responsibility team, which is sponsoring the effort. It’ll do so by engaging Starbucks partners from around the globe in an effort to establish Starbucks as a leader in integrated sustainable thinking. The community hopes to significantly grow membership and establish field chapters globally to help support the company’s commitment to sustainability.

John Kelly, Starbucks senior vice president of Global Responsibility and Public Policy, said he’s excited by the passion that partners bring to the company’s global sustainability goals.

“With our footprint in nearly 70 countries, we have an extraordinary opportunity to learn about local, partner-driven innovation in sustainability that we could bring to scale,” Kelly said. “By harnessing the ideas of Partners for Sustainability, sharing their stories and hearing directly from them on ways Starbucks can continue to lead on sustainability, we have a unique opportunity to make the green apron even greener."

The community’s roots reach back to its predecessor connection group, Partners for Sustainable Living, which emphasized efforts on the home front ranging from composting to water preservation to ecofriendly transportation. While personal ecological activities remain a concern of Partners for Sustainability, the new group is placing a greater emphasis on the business front.

“The question was how to marry those two – the people who have passion doing the great work in sustainability and the people who have that passion in their personal lives,” said Long. “How do we bring them all together to create a think tank to help drive Starbucks forward in terms of sustainability?”

The answer lies in unifying a motivated and inventive workforce that’s already engaged in the greening of Starbucks, their communities and their homes.

“All partners, no matter what their position, have an opportunity to help drive sustainability at Starbucks,” said Long. “Partners for Sustainability is intended to help them connect, share and amplify their efforts.”

At Home and Around the World

Long cited a number of existing programs that reflect the momentum behind Starbucks sustainability. In Japan, waste coffee grounds have been turned into fertilizer for cattle feed and in Thailand they’ve been utilized to construct coffeehouse furniture. In Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador, the Starbucks One Tree for Every Bag effort supports the planting of one coffee tree for each bag of packaged coffee purchased in U.S. Starbucks stores through September 2016. And the Starbucks Reserve® Roastery and Tasting Room’s recent LEED® Platinum certification highlighted the company’s advances in environmental design and construction. The designation by the U.S. Green Building Council recognizes best-in-class green building strategies and practices.

Speaking at a partner lunch-and-learn gathering at Starbucks Seattle headquarters that commemorated the Roastery’s LEED designation, John Harrison, co-chair of Partners for Sustainability, stressed how concern for the environment makes business sense. “You can’t sell coffee to people if you can’t farm the beans,” Harrison said.

He also noted that Starbucks will pass the 800 mark of LEED stores by the end of the year, a greater number than any company in the world and one that will nearly double by the end of 2016.

The coming year promises to be busy for Partners for Sustainability as they strive to spread their message and build their membership through social channels and events like the annual Sustainability Fair in the Starbucks headquarters.

“Great work is being done by partners, from the baristas up to the Starbucks Support Center,” said Meghan Spence, the group’s director of communications. “We need baristas’ passion for the environment and ideas. We’re the home where they can share best practices, share issues and connect with people who can make things happen and drive the conversation forward.”

Pictured above from left to right: Danny Brendike, Chris McFarlane, Sue Long, Meghan Spence, Suzanne Sullivan, and John Harrison

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‘By us and for us:’ New Starbucks merch inspired by LGBTQ+ community