OPERATIONS

Starbucks needs to do more to eliminate racial bias, say advisors

BY Marianne Wilson

Four hours of dedicated training isn’t enough to wipe out racial bias among Starbucks Corp. employees, according to a report by its advisors.

The report, was written by Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, and Heather McGhee, distinguished senior fellow at Demos, a public policy organization. It comes approximately one month after the coffee giant closed its U.S. corporate-owned stores for an afternoon of racial bias training.

“We’ve been clear from day one that a single training alone could not address racial bias across the entire Starbucks organization,” stated Ifill in a news release announcing the study, which was done in consultation with dozens of organizations and experts, from racial and religious groups to legal and policy centers.

The report calls for Starbucks to revamp its hiring, training and promotion procedures. Among specific recommendations, it suggests that Starbucks conduct an internal audit to examine any customer service bias. It calls on Starbucks to deepen its connections to local communities, and consult with local experts about gentrification and discriminatory policing. It advises Starbucks to have an “independent racial equity consultant” create a detailed plan for future diversity and anti-bias training sessions.

Shortly before the report was released, Starbucks announced it is already acting on some of the suggestions outlined in it. Later this summer, the retailer will roll out the first in a series of new trainings on a range of topics that build on the May anti-bias session. Over the next year, 12 training modules will roll out – six targeted to managers and above and six for all associates.

Some of the topics include cultural perspectives, engaging with empathy, gratitude, building diverse teams and more. Similar to the previous training, 23,000 specially modified iPads will guide employees through the experience.

“It’s not solely diversity training,” said Roz Brewer, COO, Starbucks. “We’re addressing issues around leadership. We’re offering new tools. And ultimately, we hope to take our partners on a journey.”

Starbucks said it is also in the early stages of planning a conference next year for more than 15,000 store managers and leaders to continue conversations about bias and look for ways to be more inclusive.

“We want to thank the advisors and all of the people who offered their counsel, recommendations and advice,” stated Vivek Varma, executive VP of public affairs. “We’re listening and reflecting. We’re open minded and have more to do.”

Click here to read the report.

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