The Starbucks Paradox

The Starbucks Paradox - The Starbucks Paradox It was...

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The Starbucks Paradox It was November 1999 in Seattle and the U.S. global justice movement had taken to the streets. Suddenly, there was a crash not 20 feet from where I stood, and the Starbucks window collapsed in a hail of glass. “Zowie,” I said to my husband Alec, “I sure hate the WTO and capitalism, but that’s our coffee store.” I’ve been pondering the contradictions ever since, watching my progressive colleagues devour the latest episode of Friends, gleefully shop for real estate, and sip their lattes. Political ideology notwithstanding, we were avid participants in popular culture and petty capital. How could we so glibly demonize that which we so cheerfully consumed? And as I went around the country, I couldn’t help notice that both the employees and habitués of Starbucks seemed far more diverse by race and class than the American anti- globalization movement. I wanted to know, was big, by definition, bad? Was Starbucks’ touted commitment to “values” just a cynical ploy to complement Few people argued that coffee was inherently evil like bombs or SUVs. Rather, Starbucks stood accused of: buying coffee at prices that couldn’t sustain the farmers; purchasing from farms that degraded the environment; causing neighborhoods to gentrify and small cafes to wither; and representing the mega-branding that’s killing small businesses and homogenizing the I frankly like having Starbucks at the airport, and at strip malls in strange cities. I wouldn’t mind independently-owned coffee shops instead, but Starbucks is usually what’s there. Moreover, progressives have tended to romanticize small businesses; yet many sweatshops in this country have been small, family-owned enterprises, and that didn’t benefit those who worked there. As a rule, racial minorities have fared better in larger institutions. Was Starbucks doing right by race? What What, specifically, is wrong with this emblematic corporation? And is anything right? It seems to me that the movement is old enough to make some The View from Headquarters The mermaid from the Starbucks logo peers coyly from the top of the refurbished Sears warehouse in Seattle that serves as company headquarters. Although one union official claims this is cultishness gone amok, I can’t help seeing it as a humorous and engaging design feature. The people I meet are also humorous and engaging. They include Paula Boggs, executive vice president, general counsel and secretary; Wanda Herndon, senior VP, Worldwide Public Affairs; David Pace, executive VP, Partner Resources; and Sandra Taylor, senior VP, Corporate Social Responsibility. While they are polished spokespeople for the Starbucks mission and policies, they don’t really strike me as cult material. What does strike me is that three of the four are African American women. Women comprise barely 13 percent of Fortune 500 general counsel and women of color merely 1.6 percent of all corporate officer positions. At Starbucks, more than 34 percent of the top officers (vice
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This note was uploaded on 03/11/2012 for the course MBA 103 taught by Professor Wise during the Spring '12 term at Salem Intl..

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The Starbucks Paradox - The Starbucks Paradox It was...

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