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How Starbucks Can Fix Its Racism Problem, According to Consultants

A new report outlines practical steps like posting a Customer Bill of Rights and revamping employee handbooks

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Starbucks Closes 8000 Stores Nationwide For Racial Bias Training Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Following the arrests in April of two black men at a Starbucks in Philadelphia, the world’s biggest coffee shop chain shuttered the majority of its U.S. stores for an afternoon of racial bias training. But as critics — some of whom decried the training as a performative PR stunt — have noted, putting workers through one four-hour class is unlikely to make much of a dent in combating the kind of systemic racism that pervades every facet of American life.

That’s something that the chain seemingly understood to an extent, as it also hired a group of external advisers to examine the company’s policies and operations. In a report published Monday, Heather McGhee of the public policy organization Demos and Sherrilyn Ifill of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund make recommendations on how Starbucks can make a “full-scale racial equity overhaul,” as the Washington Post reports.

Among the report’s recommendations:

• Conduct in-store audits to look for “any variance in customer service or policy adherence based on the customers’ backgrounds”

• Do a “civil rights audit,” explained as “a comprehensive and independent review of the company’s processes, policies, and outcomes across a range of metrics, including racial diversity of staff at all levels and contractors throughout the supply chain”

• Examine its employment practices to “clearly identify any patterns of discrimination and inequity in employee recruitment, hiring, retention, pay, promotion, and grievance procedures”

• Per a suggestion from Donte Robinson and Rashon Nelson, the men arrested in Philadelphia, create a “Customer Bill of Rights” to be posted inside each store, offering contact information for customers to report experiences

• Revamp its store manuals and employee handbooks to more explicitly define racial discrimination and how it should be handled

McGhee and Ifill also acknowledge the role that Starbucks plays in gentrifying communities and displacing people of color, and recommend the company form a panel of housing experts and civil rights leaders to look for ways to combat gentrification. The report offers a few suggestions including “Community Benefits Agreements that guarantee measurable improvements for area residents” and “Linkage Fees that commercial businesses pay to affordable housing funds.”

Since the highly publicized Philadelphia incident, which spurred protests and boycotts, Starbucks announced that everyone is welcome to sit (and use the restroom) inside its stores, whether they make a purchase or not. The company also provided employees with new guidelines on when it is appropriate to call the police. In addition, the coffee chain outlined plans for ongoing staff training on the topics of diversity and inclusion, with training modules set to roll out over the next 12 months for both managers and hourly employees. According to a press release, Starbucks is planning a conference in 2019 for 15,000 store managers and company leaders “to continue conversations about bias and look for ways to be more inclusive.”

See below for the report in its entirety:

Starbucks ‘Racial Equity Overhaul’ Will Take More Than an Afternoon [Washington Post]
You Officially No Longer Need to Buy Anything to Sit Inside Starbucks [E]

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