Starbucks advisers say the company needs to do more to end racial bias

Posted at 9:48 PM, Jul 02, 2018

Starbucks needs to do much more to eliminate racial bias from its stores, according to a report, published Monday, that urges the company to conduct comprehensive civil rights and consumer profiling audits.

The report, compiled by two civil rights experts advising the company, comes one month after Starbucks closed 8,000 stores nationwide to provide 175,000 employees with four hours of racial bias training.

It provides feedback on that event, as well as recommendations for a "racial equity overhaul" of Starbucks -— or any other company that wants to improve its practices.

"We've been clear from day one that a single training alone could not address racial bias across the entire Starbucks organization," Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said in a news release announcing the report.

She wrote the report with Heather McGhee, the former president of the liberal think-tank Demos.

Starbucks tapped the two women as unpaid, independent advisers to examine how the company handles racial bias. The corporate self-reflection came after police arrested two black men at a store in Philadelphia as they waited for a friend. The patrons, Donte Robinson and Rashon Nelson, also contributed to the report.

The incident, which occurred April 12, sparked public outrage and prompted former Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz to call it "reprehensible" in an open letter to customers.

Monday's report suggests that Starbucks conduct an internal audit to examining any customer service bias. It also criticizes the company's policy manuals for lacking "adequate information" about detecting or addressing discrimination.

Other recommendations include creating a "customer bill of rights" that outlines how customers can report their experiences and is displayed in every store.

The report also calls on Starbucks to deepen its connections to local communities and consult with local experts about gentrification and discriminatory policing.

It also urges Starbucks to have an "independent racial equity consultant" create a detailed plan for future diversity and anti-bias training sessions.

"While we applaud the commitment to more in-depth training, there is a drawback to the speed with which the company has developed the plan of action," the authors wrote in the report.

Monday's report came just hours after Starbucks published details of the reforms it is enacting. It plans to launch "new trainings" that will build on those provided in May. The first will focus on "understanding the realities and impact of discrimination."

Starbucks said it is "already acting on many" of the suggestions received thus, including some outlined in the report.

"We're listening and reflecting," said Vivek Varma, executive vice president of public affairs for Starbucks, in the news release. "We're open-minded and have more to do."