Starbucks will soon be decked out in (RED), but it’s not just to celebrate the holidays. As part of its new “Shared Planet” commitment, the coffee brand announced at its managers conference in New Orleans that it will be the latest company to partner with (PRODUCT) RED. Beginning in late November, Starbucks will donate 5 cents to the Global Fund to benefit AIDS programs in Africa for each holiday beverage it sells throughout the season (other products will later be designated during this multiyear commitment). Although Starbucks joins an impressive roster of (RED) companies, including Gap, Converse and Apple, it may still be surprising that the company has signed on to a new philanthropic commitment when the economy is in such turmoil. But as (RED) co-founder Bono explained during a surprise speech at the meeting, “This is not charity. This is commerce.”
Leadership companies recognize that the health of business and society are intrinsically linked. As a result, companies have an opportunity to make a positive impact on social and environmental issues that will ultimately be rewarded with short-term sales, long-term reputational gains and stakeholder loyalty. Consumers may be buying less, but they will be buying better. Consequently, the value of corporate commitments to help solve societal issues goes far beyond the dollar in troubled times like these.
*In the interest of full disclosure, Starbucks is a Cone client; however, Cone is not involved in this partnership.