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Starbucks Equity Goals Will Take Time

One month after Starbucks closed 8,000 stores for racial biasing training for 175,000 employees, two of the curriculum’s advisers laid out a new set of recommendations for how one of the world’s most dominant companies can further address diversity, equity and inclusion.

In a report published on Monday, Heather McGhee, distinguished senior fellow of the public policy organization Demos, and Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-council of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, outlined how Starbucks and other companies could achieve a “full-scale racial equity overhaul.”

While McGhee and Ifill served as pro bono advisers on Starbucks’s May 29 training, they conducted the report independently and in consultation with dozens of organizations and experts, from racial and religious groups to legal and policy centers.

“It’s really important that we wrote this report with an audience of Starbucks, but also with an audience of other corporations that might want to take steps to address racism in their company,” McGhee said. “Because not everybody is going to have 40 conversations, and we wanted to make sure that this broader audience understood what some of the key principles are in designing a training like that.”

McGhee and Ifill wrote that in the weeks leading up to the training, Starbucks would have to — and did — make clear to employees that the May 29 training marked the start of a long-term, company-wide commitment to diversity and inclusion. Moreover, McGhee and Ifill wrote that the April arrests of Donte Robinson and Rashon Nelson had to be framed within the broader context of the historical discrimination against black people in public spaces.

Still, McGhee and Ifill noted that “there is a drawback to the speed with which the company has developed the plan of action” and recommended that Starbucks spend time identifying which specific practices employees should develop in future trainings.

McGhee said that other incidents at Starbucks stores, including an anti-Latino slur written on a customer’s cup, “in some ways provided enough evidence that there was a problem.”

“You have to take a racial-equity lens to all parts of the business and that’s a science,” McGhee said.

“That involves data and assessments and monitoring and evaluation, and most importantly goal setting.”


By Rachel Siegel

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