Letting go: Corporate dominance gives rise to responsibility
Corporate Social Responsibility enthusiasts often struggle to balance the indiscretions of a company's past with their current attempts at good works. Â While die-hard anti-corporate activists will likely never recognize the authenticity behind big-box retailers interested in "greening" themselves, there are more and more whose progress in the responsibility arena deserves recognition. Â Starbucks is a great example, though I still cringe when I recognize this fact given their history of running small businesses out of town in their meteoric rise to java stardom.
For a long time I put companies into very black and white "good" or "bad" quadrants in my head. Â Starbucks was bad because we'd all watched as they dominated blocks and in a fit of branding genius introduced the coffee "drink" that led to booming business and many a small local coffee shop shutting down. Â But as the years went by and their drinks became more impossible to ignore or avoid, I began to see signs in their shops I didn't see in other establishments. Â From the informational displays and selling of Ethos Water to bulletin boards with pictures of baristas doing international service projects, the company was clearly focused on cultivating a responsible image. Â Still, the pessimist in me held out that it was just that - further gimmicky branding and not enough compensation for the businesses they impacted in the earliest days.
Starbucks is far from alone in this category - many of today's most successful businesses left the same RIP trail of mom-and-pop shops in their wake. Â Like me, I know many people who aren't quite ready to forgive them for it. Â The truth is, these are the businesses of today - the major employers, the movers of the most products and those who serve the greatest amounts of people. Â It is thus important to both encourage, support and embrace their efforts at responsibility. Â Starbucks has recently launched 3 pilot stores of fantastic innovation in regards to sourcing locally, community collaboration and renewable energy. Â Their partnership with GE to develop a customized lighting system represents the best of private innovation and partnership resulting in new technology and alternatives. Â And these aren't meant to be single shops of green stardom - they are intended to set the course for operations and building as a whole throughout the company and for future growth.
A Starbucks is a hub of activity and the more opportunities a space like that takes to cater to the environment and in any way publicize responsible business, building and energy practices, the better. Â So, after years of holding a grudge (though I did eventually start partaking in their frappuccinos) I am ready to focus my attention more on the good they're doing now, than the bad they did to get here. Â I cringe as I write those words, but I know it's the right thing to do for the sake of better business as a whole both now and in the future.