Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Starbucks gets fi(RED) up in the Big Easy

October 30, 2008

Starbucks gathered its top managers this week in New Orleans for a morale-building leadership soiree and for its final act, its famous chief executive Howard Schultz yielded the stage to rock star Bono.

The U2 singer and philanthropist, who co-founded the (Red) project that develops co-branded products with companies like Apple and Gap, was on scene to help Starbucks announce its own (Red) product line launching on Nov. 27. A portion of the proceeds from Starbucks’ (Red) product sales will go to the Global Fund to invest in AIDS programs in Africa, a key coffee-growing region for Starbucks.

“This coffee will be beautiful because it’s going to chase away the ugliness of this tiny little virus, HIV,” Bono told the crowd of 10,000 store and district managers as colored spotlights swept over the crowd gathered for the event’s last session at the New Orleans Arena.

Starbucks held the conference as it grapples with its own turn of fortunes. (You have probably read about company layoffs and the 600 U.S. stores being closed this year as Starbucks’ domestic customers have cut the frequency of their pricey latte purchases to accommodate higher fuel and food costs.)

During the week, the Starbucks employees donned T-shirts that read “Onward” on the front and “Believe in the power of 10,000″ on the back, and participated in community service projects around the Big Easy, which is still recovering from Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Starbucks also unveiled a variety of goals it plans to hit by 2015.

Among other things, it plans to contribute more than 1 million community service hours per year in communities where it does business, to increase its proportion of ethically sourced coffee purchases from 65 percent to 100 percent, to increase recycling and to “significantly” reduce water use.

(Photos and additional reporting by Kathy Finn)

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