Starbucks Brings ‘Upstanders’ to White House South by South Lawn

South By South Lawn at The White House

Starbucks original series “Upstanders” focuses on ordinary people doing extraordinary things – like a college junior who found a way to get food that would otherwise be wasted to hungry people and a former prisoner who opened her home to help women like herself rebuild their lives after they’d served their sentences.

The Upstanders series was represented at South by South Lawn (SXSL) at the White House (October 3). Earlier this year, President Obama traveled to South by Southwest in Austin for a conversation on civic engagement and to challenge creative thinkers and entrepreneurs from across the country to help tackle the country's toughest challenges. The event on the South Lawn of the White House brought together creators, innovators and organizers who work day in and day out to improve the lives of their fellow Americans and people around the world.

Starbucks, one of the event’s sponsors, will be hosting an Upstanders booth where attendees will be invited to share stories of people who refuse to be bystanders in their communities. Participants had an opportunity to record and share their stories. 

Like those featured in the Upstander productions, Starbucks as a company strives to be an Upstander by helping find solutions to complex societal problems and creating long-term impact in the communities where partners (employees) live and work. Here are 10 ways the ideals highlighted in the first 10 Upstander stories are reflected in Starbucks initiatives and the efforts of individual partners.

Education for All

Scholarships for Every Student: In Baldwin, Michigan, college wasn’t in the cards for most high-school graduates – until residents did something remarkable: They banded together and raised enough money to provide every student with a scholarship.

What Starbucks is doing

In 2014, Starbucks introduced a first-of-its-kind College Achievement Plan created in partnership with Arizona State University. The program creates an opportunity for all eligible U.S. partners (employees) to earn their bachelor’s degree with full tuition reimbursement all four years through ASU’s top-ranked online degree program. To date, more than 8,100 partners have enrolled in the Starbucks College Achievement Plan.


Hiring Veterans 

A Warrior’s Workout: Former pro football player David Vobora gave up a lucrative career in private training to work with wounded warriors. His workouts have brought them new strength and inspiration.

What Starbucks is doing

Starbucks is creating opportunity for active-duty service members, veterans and military spouses as they transition from service to civilian careers. Starbucks is committed to hiring at least 10,000 veterans and military spouses by the end of 2018. To date, 7117 have been hired. The company also covers up to 80 hours of pay each year for service obligations and extends its College Achievement Plan to a child or spouse of a current or former member of the U.S. Armed Forces. 


Feeding the Hungry

The Hunger Hack: In the United States, 40 percent of the food supply is wasted. College student Maria Rose Belding created a web-based solution that saves tens of thousands of pounds of food each year.

What Starbucks is doing

Starbucks FoodShare is a program to donate nutritious, ready-to-eat meals to food banks from its U.S. company-operated stores. In partnership with Feeding America and Food Donation Connection, Starbucks intends to scale this program over the next three years and rescue 100 percent of its food available for donation from participating company-operated U.S. stores. The program recently expanded to San Diego and Orange County, and will soon be launching in Colorado and Las Vegas.


Diversity and Inclusion

The Mosque Across the Street: When an Islamic center purchased a plot of land opposite a church in Memphis, Tennessee, the local Muslim community expected hostility. Pastor Steve Stone had something else in mind.

What Starbucks is doing

Starbucks chairman and ceo Howard Schultz has responded to racial tension in America by holding a series of forums where partners (employees) share personal experiences. The forums have helped shape Starbucks commitment to create opportunities for all. Starbucks is a key driver of the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative, the country’s largest employer-led coalition committed to creating pathways to meaningful employment for young people. The company has opened stores in Englewood in the South Side of Chicago; Ferguson, Missouri; Phoenix; and the Jamaica neighborhood in Queens New York as part of an initiative to support local economic development in at last 15 diverse, low- to medium-income communities by 2018. At select stores throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa, baristas wear aprons handmade by members of a women’s cooperative to show support for survivors of the 1994 Rwandan genocide.


Second Chances

Breaking the Prison Pipeline: Susan Burton, who spent years in prison, is determined to keep other female ex-convicts from returning to prison by giving them a place to live that’s free of drugs, alcohol and abusive relationships. She has helped hundreds of them start new lives.

What Starbucks is doing

Starbucks chairman and ceo Howard Schultz has expressed support for the “ban the box” movement, which ensures that employers do not ask candidates about criminal histories on initial job applications. Starbucks does not inquire about criminal histories on initial job applications and runs background checks only after a conditional offer of employment. The policy provides applicants with a criminal history the chance to be evaluated as a whole person and be accessed on a case-by-case basis. 


Access and Disability Inclusion

Employing the Full Spectrum: John D’Eri set out to find a job for his autistic son, Andrew. His journey led him to open a car wash where 85 percent of the employees are on the autism spectrum – and business is booming.

What Starbucks is doing

Starbucks scored 100 out of 100 on a new Disability Equality Index survey, a joint initiative of the American Association of People with Disabilities and the U.S. Business Leadership Network. This is the second consecutive year Starbucks was recognized as a “Best Place to Work” by the organization. Inclusion academies at the Starbucks roasting plant and distribution centers in York, Pennsylvania, and Carson Valley, Nevada, provide six-week on-the-job programs to help individuals with disabilities gain meaningful work experience in manufacturing, warehousing and distribution.


Supporting Communities

The Kids Who Killed an Incinerator: Seventeen-year-old Destiny Watford’s decision to stand up for her community and oppose the construction of an incinerator led to an improbable series of events that would stun her neighbors and everyone connected with the project.

What Starbucks is doing

Starbucks, along with other coffee industry leaders, is a participant in the Sustainable Coffee Challenge, a call to action to make coffee the first sustainably sourced coffee in the world. In 2015, the company announced the One Tree for Every Bag Commitment, which has funded the planting of 18 million rust-resistant coffee trees to farmers in need toward a goal of 20 million trees by the end of the year. 


Safe Communities

The Empathetic Police Academy: Susan Rahr is transforming the way police officers are trained in the state of Washington. Instead of preparing them to wage a war on crime, she wants them to become guardians of the community.

What Starbucks is doing

Starbucks was an early participant in the Seattle Police Department’s Safe Place program, which identifies safe and secure places for victims of anti-LGBTQ-related crimes and harassment. Starbucks stores across the country have also hosted informal coffee-with-cops gatherings that bring together police and the public they serve.


Creating Pathways to Opportunity

Homes for Everyone: Faced with a growing homeless population, Utah changed the way it provides shelter to those on the streets. Under Lloyd Pendleton’s leadership, the state has reduced its chronic homeless population by 91 percent. 

Building Homes, Building Lives: After spending his teenage years in and out of jail, Robert Clark turned his life around. Now he’s committed himself to helping the at-risk youth of Newark do the same by leading them in building homes for poor families.

What Starbucks is doing

Partners in the Seattle area participate in the United Way of King County's annual Community Resource Exchange to connect people who are experiencing homelessness with essential services. Also as part of Global Month of Service, partners have helped young people in their quest for employment in Philadelphia as part of Youth Development Day activities and participated in similar mentoring projects in cities around the world. 

In addition, Starbucks has developed the Home Sweet Loan program in the United Kingdom and subsidies in China to help partners confront the high cost of housing. Members of the Starbucks legal team also helped develop the “Homeless Youth Handbook,” a tool to identify legal issues and options for young people living on the street. 

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