Written by Lorna LiMy Starbucks Idea

Starbucks Ideas has been live for about 3 weeks and already customers have had plenty to say about what they expect from the world’s largest chain of coffee shops. The move to launch a website that allows anyone to post ideas about how Starbucks can improve its service offering is part of an increasing trend by companies to use social networking applications to better improve communication with their customers. This move may be the best way for the struggling coffee maker to quickly turn its business around.

Starbucks Ideas is not a true social network play, rather is an an interactive forum where people can vet their best ideas in a manner much like Digg. Starbucks Ideas is powered by Salesforce.com and is the same social platform that powers Dell’s Ideastorm which won PR Innovation of the Year 2008. Already, Starbucks has moved to implement the top two customer requests: free coffee for frequent buyers and universal free wi-fi, which is finally (woot, woot!) coming soon in Spring 2008. The thought that a multinational global corporation like Starbucks would be so responsive to the voice of its customers is encouraging indeed.

Can Customers Make Starbucks Become More Environmentally Responsible?

As I surfed through several pages of Starbucks Ideas I was struck by the number of requests for a Greener Starbucks. Below is a list of suggestions and comments that would Starbucks make a better environmental citizen, all of which I voted on:

Stop Trashing Empty Cards We don’t need any more plastic in the trash. Rather than suggesting trashing an empty starbucks card, give people a 25 cent credit…for refilling it. To make it affordable, how about…. Re-fill your card…at $20 level…get $20.25 on the card. Re fill at the $50 level…get $51.00 on the card. Re fill at the $100 level…get $103.oo on the card, or get the $100…and your current single drink order free. More on the plastic…less plastic in the trash.

Sell Reusable Sleeves I have recently had customers who come in with their own rubber sleeves for their cups. They tell me they purchased them from Bed Bath and Beyond. They prefer to use them as the grip is more secure and they are helping preserve the trees. Starbucks should have these manufactured with the company logo and sell them for a really reasonable price point so we could also help save the trees etc

Recycle! Recycle! Become greener!

Recycle In Stores It concerns me that we do not have recycle bins in our stores. In Seattle, and in most large cities the opportunity to help the environment by recycling is readily available in our homes and many business. I would like to see Starbucks stores embrace this as well by providing Glass, plastice and compost waste in containers in all stores.

Recycle the Waste in the Back of Your Stores I don’t think Starbucks has shown a real connection between environmental health and human health. Here is why: My local Starbucks produces a tremendous amount of garbage everyday and nearly none of it is recycled. Nearly all the store waste is thrown out and put in the garbage and taken to the landfill. Recycle the waste in the back end of ALL your stores. It goes beyond the polish of the front end and sales. Make it a real effort to connect environmental health and human health. Thank you.

Reusable Cups I use my Starbucks reusable travel mug almost every time I order and this is what I often see: – 99% of the time I don’t get the mug discount, – some baristas have no real clue what to do with it, – they stick a disposable cup inside it to take down the order and then throw the disposable cup away (I’ve seen stickers but they seem to be out of them a lot). We need more people to use the mugs and reduce the number of disposable cups used. Push the sale of them (make them cheaper – why not just $5?) and then train staff on how to handle the cups!

Locally sourced (organic) baked goods Offer locally sourced (organic or not) high quality baked goods similar to some of the baked goods Whole Foods offers, instead of the nationally consistent scones, cookies, pastries, cakes, and breads offered now. This sacrifices some of the national consistency now in place (though there is some variance already) but brings better quality, better tasting food to Starbucks, supports the local community, and elevates Starbucks above other coffee outlets (national outlets now also serving coffee) by cranking up the quality level and local community/local business tie ins. As a result, Starbucks will feel more like a local coffee store again rather than some big national chain.

Biodegradable drink and food containers – Yeah! Replace plastic containers for cold drinks, straws, salads etc. with those made of biodegradable polylactic acid or polylactide (PLA). These are readily available and currently in use by forward-thinking entities like Paul Newman’s “Newman’s Own” products.

Fair Trade Coffee I think that Starbucks should switch to only selling and brewing coffee, lattes … with only fair trade coffee. Fair trade coffee costs the consumer no more than regular coffee and still gives the coffee grower a fair price for their coffee. In return these coffee growers use organic means to grow their coffee making it environmentally friendly. That is why I would like to see Starbucks switch to only selling fair trade coffee.

Real Fruit Smoothies real fruit smoothies

Porcelain Cups When I first started going to Starbucks, they used to ask here or to go, and if “here” you’d get a porcelain mug of various sizes. Would that be cheaper than buying all those paper cups. Too much washing dishes?

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Corporate Social Responsibility at Starbucks

I’ve seen Starbucks come a long way. Since 1999, when it was assailed by numerous activist groups upset with the company’s fair-trade policies, labor relations, and environmental impact during the WTO talks in Seattle, Starbucks has evolved with a commendable corporate social responsibility program.

While many love to hate Starbucks, I would point out that, over the past decade, Starbucks has proved to be more socially responsible than many other multinational corporations of equal reach and caliber. The mission of Starbucks’ CSR program is to work daily with partners (employees), suppliers and farmers to help create a more sustainable approach to high-quality coffee production, to help build stronger local communities, to minimize their environmental footprint and to be responsive to customers health and wellness needs.

My Starbucks Idea is simply another way in which the company has demonstrated a willingness to address public opinion, even if its primary motivation is maintaining competitive advantage. A secondary side effect, put powerful side effect of this social application could hopefully be the Greening of Starbucks, if their customers want it strongly enough. The power of social media for social innovation is evident. If consumers are vocal enough about Starbucks’ environmental impact, Starbucks Ideas may indeed be the catalyst to a Greener, more earth-friendly Starbucks. All it takes is making that vote!

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About the Author:

Lorna Li

Discussion

    no imageLeslie Harty (Who am I?)2 April 2008 10:11 pm

    We should use landfill biodegradable cups and plates instead of PLA. PLA uses MORE fossil fuels than biodegradable PE in its life cycle. It is also responsible for increased food costs- milk, meat, butter, bread, chicken. It is polluting aquifers and the Gulf of Mexico with the fertilizers corn uses- nitrogen. There is a dead zone the size of New Jersey from this pollution.Unless PLA is put into commercial or municilpal compost facilities that take table scraps,they will not break down!!!There are only 28 of these sites in the entire US.The Smithonian Magazine article called PLA as being compostable as possible “false advertising” as it does not break down in backyard composts. It is a given it will never degrade in landfills, but do most consumers know that? We have been misled. Use Green Film products- landfill degradable, compostable, and recycable with regular plastics.

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    no imagelornali (Who am I?)3 April 2008 6:14 pm

    Hi Leslie,

    This is a great comment and I encourage you to share your thoughts about PLA with Starbucks by going to the Starbucks Ideas site. Just follow the link above
    and comment in the section under Biogradeable Drink and Food Containers. Don’t forget to vote up your favorite Green ideas or add your own at http://mystarbucksideas.com

    Cheers,

    Lorna Li
    Green 2.0

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    3.4 (1 person)