It was a year like no other.
It was a year we had little choice but to dig deep into our reserves of resilience, patience and kindness, even as COVID-19 turned the world and each of our lives upside down, sparing no one from change and uncertainty. It was a year that underscored the importance of standing up, marching and speaking out against racial inequality.
From climate change to elections and hunger to mental health, it can be hard to feel optimistic after a year spent facing down so many personal and collective challenges.
But here’s what gives us hope: You. It seems the human spirit shines the brightest in times of difficulty. For evidence of this, we have to look no further than Starbucks partners and customers around the world and their acts of courage, creativity and joy.
As 2020 comes to a close, we’d like to share a look at some of this year’s milestones as well as what we’re looking forward to in 2021.
This year, we learned eyes can smile. Behind those masks were our baristas, ready to help make people’s day just a little better.
Neighbor helping neighbor
Troy James, a Starbucks licensed store district manager in New Orleans recognized a need in his community. He knew that many people had lost their service-industry jobs due to the effects of COVID-19 and families were struggling to have enough to eat. James pulled together the connections he had: relationships with Target, which operate licensed Starbucks stores; Liberty’s Kitchen, a nonprofit mentorship program for youth which James has been volunteering with for more than a decade; and the Starbucks Black Partner Network, which challenged itself to find solutions during civil unrest over the summer.
He reached out to Second Harvest Food Bank of New Orleans, a Starbucks mobile food pantry grant recipient, which he’d worked with before, and the Metropolitan Human Services District, which pledged to show up with healthcare resources.
The result was a resource distribution event at Franklin Avenue Baptist Church on a rainy summer morning volunteers, including New Orleans councilwoman Cyndi Nguyen, passed out 1,600 boxes of food, each designed to feed a family of four for two weeks, 800 COVID-19 sanitizing kits and 400 back-to-school kits in a backpack. Liberty’s Kitchen bought the school supplies with a $7,500 Target community grant.
Commitment to coffee farmers
In January of 2020, Starbucks announced a multi-decade aspiration to become resource positive. It’s a time when coffee is at a bit of a crossroads. There are more coffee drinkers in the world than ever before, but each year, climate change, disease and diminishing natural resources can make the business of coffee farming more and more difficult.
Starbucks coffee farm in Costa Rica, purchased in 2013 to help the company better understand these challenges, has become a global hub of research and discovery. In 2020, Starbucks announced progress with refined agronomy practices and use of old-world tree breeding techniques that can drastically increase yield of coffee farms, bringing more economic security to farmers and the communities where they live.
Inclusive Starbucks stores around the world
Starbucks expanded its dedication to inclusive stores that serve local communities around the world. In India, Tata Starbucks opened two stores operated entirely by women. The stores reaffirm Tata Starbucks ongoing commitment to promoting an inclusive and diverse workforce by empowering women leaders
In South Korea, Starbucks opened a first-of-its-kind store focused on inclusive design. The store was designed to expand career opportunities for Starbucks partners with disabilities. Half of the staff are partners with disabilities and hold positions at nearly every level. Partners all receive customized training and development, including basic expressions in Korean Sign Language. Starbucks also opened a new signing store in Japan in June and another in Beijing in September; the company now has six signing stores around the world where all the partners are fluent in sign language.
Pandemic changes how we work
The Starbucks Support Center is dark except for the clock tower as the pandemic worsened in the Seattle area in March. Starbucks is reimagining the corporate headquarters during the time that many partners are away from the building and working from home.
Nurturing the human spirit
It’s not just about coffee, it’s about people. It’s about nurturing the human spirit. In uncertain times, Starbucks partners and customers around the globe exercised daily acts of resilience, kindness, courage, creativity and joy and making good things happen.
Starbucks partners recognized need in their communities in 2020 and stepped in to help, doing everything from sewing masks to working at food banks. Visiting longtime regular customers, and providing coffee to front-line responders.
Responding to social injustice
In 2020 Starbucks partner Ain Powell raised the Juneteenth flag over the corporate headquarters to recognize the holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States — amid massive social unrest and demands across the country for change and justice.
That same month a silent protest in Seattle drew many Starbucks partners in one of the largest protest marches Seattle has seen in decades.
“What a time it is to be alive,” Powell said the week of the flag raising. “What a time it is to put all of my learning that I’ve grown up with, all the knowledge that my parents and my grandparents have told me about. Not just my culture and to be proud of my past, but to understand what it took for us to get here, and to understand that we have a long way to go.”
Preparing to reopen
As people sheltered in place at the beginning of the pandemic, Starbucks stores closed. They were reopened after new safety measures were implemented and partners went through training. The company embraced the mantra of “monitor and adapt” as situations changed in local communities and Starbucks worked to responsibly re-open stores after the closures.
At the time, Kevin Johnson, Starbucks chief operating officer, wrote, “These adaptations will reinforce the concept of the third place — a warm and welcoming place, outside of our homes and our workspaces, where we connect and build community. We think of the third place as a mindset — a feeling of comfort that uplifts customers everywhere, and in every way, they experience Starbucks. And the third place has never been more relevant than now, as communities seek to reconnect and heal.”
Free coffee for front-line responders
After announcing that Starbucks would give a free tall coffee to front-line responders, Kevin Johnson, chief executive officer, delivered coffee to an ambulance crew that pulled up to the store in Seattle’s Sodo neighborhood.
Johnson also visited the Starbucks Roasting Plant in Kent, Washington where new safety measures were put in place because of the pandemic.
New ways to serve customers
Starbucks accelerated the transformation of stores with the expansion of formats such as Drive-Thru, Starbucks Pickup and curbside pickup at some stores as a response to the shift in the market during COVID-19 and to meet evolving customer needs.
Supporting Black-led nonprofits
In the midst of COVID-19, which has disproportionately impacted people of color, a racial justice movement and a struggling economy, nonprofits were stretched to meet the need. In response, The Starbucks Foundation awarded Neighborhood Grants to more than 400 nonprofit organizations in the U.S. and Canada. Recipients of the awards, which totaled $1.5 million, were nominated by Starbucks partners, with priority given to Black-led grassroots nonprofits that serve Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities, including You Grow Girl! in Seattle.
A taste of normalcy
In the end, at the core, Starbucks is about bringing people together – and that all centers around coffee and connection.
Throughout the year Starbucks Stories introduced you to partners, including people like Samantha Haviser-Iddings, a senior project manager in store development and a leader with the Starbucks Black Partner Network.
Holiday cheer in an unprecedented time
Holiday season at Starbucks is a festive time. And our holiday cups are always a sign that the season of cheer is here. In 2020 we introduced you to talented Starbucks designers Taylor Mattson, left, and Jamie Jones.
“We went through so many rounds of different cup designs, from minor tweaks to totally new ideas,” said Jones. “We designed with ribbons, different variations on the orders of the ribbons and what colors we wanted to combine. We also cut out individual strips of paper and put them together to get a variety of options really fast. We love bouncing ideas off of each other and have similar taste design wise, so together it was the perfect match. I hope people are proud of the designs, we put a lot of love into them.”