Starbucks calls for boosting small businesses, vaccine rollout

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Starbucks is calling on President-Elect Joe Biden, along with other companies, to invest in businesses owned by people of color that have been slammed by the pandemic — especially in local manufacturing.

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“They need help, and they need help in the form of investments,” Starbucks chief operating officer Roz Brewer said on Bloomberg Television Tuesday as the company announced $100 million through 2025 to support small businesses and community development projects in diverse communities. “This is not about us trying to lift our bottom line. This is about the customers that come in to our stores. Our customers are actually small business owners, too.”

Many small businesses, which have been weakened across the U.S. by the nearly yearlong COVID-19 pandemic, have had to rely on the private sector while waiting months for stimulus. Businesses in Black and other diverse communities have seen lower historic levels of investment and are now most at risk of failing, Brewer said. But even large, well-funded ones, like Starbucks, are still working to return to normalcy, with same-store sales for the chain down 9% in the U.S. last quarter.

Brewer said the public and private sectors should come together to help not only small business, but also in speeding up coronavirus vaccinations.

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“I’ll have to be honest with you — I really believe that it’s moving a little slow,” she said of the vaccine distribution effort. “That is another opportunity for both public and private to come together. There are some companies that operate very well in this space and can help with the execution.”

The company’s investment in minority communities will initially focus on 12 U.S. metropolitan areas including New Orleans, Minneapolis and Atlanta. For workplace diversity, Starbucks has set a 2025 target of employing 30% people of color at all corporate levels and 40% at all retail and manufacturing jobs. The company’s workforce is currently below the target levels for most of the positions in those areas.

Starbucks has been working to expand its diversity initiatives since two Black men were arrested in a Philadelphia cafe in 2018, dealing a blow to its long-touted commitment to social justice.

Biden is set to release his proposals — the price tag for which has yet to be unveiled — later this week. The package will feature a range of support for state and local authorities, a bump in direct payments to $2,000 and expanded unemployment benefits, along with funding for vaccine distribution, school re-opening, tax credits, rental relief and aid to small businesses.

Bloomberg News
Starbucks Small business Diversity and equality Business development
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