Starbucks raised eyebrows in 2005 when they began publishing famous quotes on coffee cups as part of its “The Way I See It” campaign. Among those were Armistead Maupin, whose Tales of the Series profiled San Francisco’s homosexual community during the 1970s and 80s. “My only regret about being gay is that I repressed it for so long,” Maupin said. “I surrendered my youth to the people I feared when I could have been out there loving someone. Don’t make that mistake yourself. Life’s too damn short.”
Social responsibility has long been at the forefront of the world’s largest coffeehouse chain. Starbucks for years has been an ally and supporter of the community through diversity hiring programs and charitable donations. Their Starbucks Pride Alliance Partner Network works to “effect positive change and increase awareness of the LGBT community within Starbucks” and create an “equitable, dynamic, and supportive environment for LGBT partners, allies and customers.”
Their support for gay pride parades also extends into the workplace, where employees have the option of wearing a “Starbucks Pride” t-shirt while on the job. The Human Rights Campaign has repeatedly listed Starbucks among its Best Places to Work, having received a 100% Corporate Equality Index. Its non-discrimination policies are impressive, listing sexual orientation and gender identity as a protected class. Benefits offered to same-sex partners are equal to those offered to opposite-sex partners, even offering short-term leave following surgical procedures and mental health counseling for its transgender employees.
Starbucks’ most enduring legacy may be its partnership with Product Red, a campaign formed in 2006 to help raise awareness and funds to help eliminate AIDS in Africa. Beginning during the 2008 holiday season, Starbucks donated 5 cents of every holiday-themed drink sold to Project Red, raising enough money to provide AIDS medicine to 3,800 people for one year. Their involvement has continued ever since, and as recently as World AIDS Day on December 1, 2010, Starbucks donated 5 cents of every drink to Project Red.
Starbucks’ continued activism and philanthropy has helped raise millions of dollars for charity and invaluable awareness for a community it doesn’t take for granted. Starbucks remains a compassionate business, and in contrast to corporations such as Target and Chick-Fil-A, that’s something we can all feel good about.
So the next time you reach for your morning cup of joe or afternoon wake-me-up, you’re not only helping yourself, you’re supporting an ally.