By Stephanie Krömer and Kathrin Maulbetsch

“Our mission: to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”
Starbucks Mission Statement

This quote is the first sentence of the Starbucks Mission Statement and shows that human beings are the center of attention at Starbucks. In this article we want to analyze to which extent a company, that claims to love the human spirit, is an example for Human Spirit Marketing. First of all we want to have a closer look at Kotler’s definition. According to Kotler “Marketing should no longer be considered as only selling and using tool to generate demand” (Kotler 2010, p. 45). Instead marketers should approach costumers “as whole human beings with mind, hearts, and spirits” (Kotler 2010, p. 4), because “consumers are looking for solutions to their anxieties about making the globalized world a better place”. (ibid).

Starbucks seizes this idea of Kotler and takes a stand for the society and the environment. Since 2001 Starbucks publishes its Global Responsibility Report annually and in 2008 they launched their Starbucks Shared Planet Program.  “Starbucks Shared Planet means focusing on the core areas where the company has the biggest influence – ethical sourcing, environmental stewardship and community involvement”. (Starbucks 2011a – Starbuck Shared Planet). These core areas can be further divided into five fields, which cover Coffee Purchasing & Farmer Support, Energy & Water Conservation, Green Building, Recycling & Reusable Cups, and Community Involvement. In every of the mentioned fields Starbucks has set realistic goals for itself, which should be achieved in 2015. By means of their varied commitment they want to achieve these goals and want to make the world a little bit better (cf. Starbucks 2011b – Our Heritage). Next we want to look closely at the mentioned commitment of Starbucks, more precisely at five examples.

The first huge example we want to look at in greater detail is ethical sourcing. Providing the world’s finest coffee has always been the company’s commitment. But just providing a high quality product is no longer enough for consumers in our globalized world. Nowadays consumers want solutions for problems caused by globalization. Regarding coffee it becomes more and more important to the consumers under which circumstances the coffee was cultivated and whether the farmers get an equitable price for their coffee beans. As a first step Starbucks began purchasing Fairtrade certified coffee in 2000 and was 2010 the world’s biggest purchaser of Fairtrade certified coffee. Last year 84% of the coffee at Starbucks was ethical sourced and the company wants to reach the 100% mark by 2015. You might say that’s cool, but Starbucks is demanding environmental protection and sustainability from its suppliers and passes on the responsibility to them, so what is Starbucks’ contribution? Realizing that the company’s success is directly linked to the success of the farmers, Starbucks established Farmer Support Centers in Central America and East Africa. In these centers Starbucks interlinks the farmers with agronomist “to help them implement more responsible growing practices, improve the quality and size of their harvests, and ultimately earn better income” (Starbucks Global Responsibility Report 2010, p. 6) Furthermore Starbucks provides funding to organizations that give loans to coffee growers, which will help them sell their crops at the best time to get the right price. The loans also help farmers to invest in their farms and make capital improvements. So as a consequence by providing both high quality and ethical sourced products Starbucks touches not only the consumers’ mind (“I’m buying high quality coffee”) but also the consumers’ heart (“I’m crazy about coffee”) and soul (“The coffee is even ethical sourced – I’m supporting a farmer in a poor country”).  Below you can see two ads that directly address these feelings.


Furthermore Starbucks is very involved in environmental protection and does a lot of different things in this field. As an example water conservation can be named here.  Of course, nearly every company claims to reduce its energy consumption. And consumers take the companies at their word. When moderator Alfonso Pantisano discovered that in every Starbucks store a constant stream of water was running – according to Starbucks to prevent bacterial growth – he spread the fact through social media (e.g. Utopia) and even caught the “old” media’s attention (e.g. The Sun) to create pressure on Starbucks. As Kotler said Human Spirit Marketing is “the era of horizontal communication where vertical control will not work. Only honesty, originality and authenticity will.” (Kotler 2010, p. 39). The media coverage of the story had occasioned Starbucks to take the criticism seriously and to change their behavior and attitude. The customers and the public appreciated that and discerned Starbucks very positive again.

Like Water Conservation our next example is a measure to reduce the company’s environmental footprint at the store level. As we said before, nearly every company claims to save water and energy, but Starbucks goes a step further and improves the way the stores are build. The eco-friendly interior furnishing in green built stores is made of reused, recycled and locally sourced material. “For example, at the University Village store in Seattle, the community table is made of wood from a fallen tree recovered from a nearby neighborhood. At the Paris Disney location in France, the countertop material contains recycled mobile-phone parts. In Fukuoka, Japan, rainwater collected from the roof of the store is used to nourish the surrounding landscape.” (Starbucks Global Responsibility Report 2010, p. 13) By means of such activities Starbucks can further establish itself as an environment-conscious company and creates trust and authenticity, which are indispensable for Human Spirit Marketing.

Starbucks shares people’s commitment for the environment and believes in the importance of caring for the planet and encouraging others to do the same. We would like you to remember your last visits at Starbucks. How did the bins in front of the store look like? At some stores the bins are filled completely with disposable cups. So our next example is from the area of Recycling and Reusable Cups. Starbucks efforts to reduce the environmental impact of disposable cups go back to 1997, when the company “introduced the recycled-content cup sleeve as a way to protect customers from hot beverages and avoid the waste of “double cupping.”“ (Starbucks 2011c – Recycling & Reducing Waste)  Over the last years Starbucks has constantly improved the materials and fibers the cups are made of. Another way to reduce the use of single-use paper and plastic cups is to use a travel mug or a reusable cup instead. As you have noticed Starbucks’ improvement in this area is linked with consumers’ willingness to use such cups. “Everything we do, you do” is a claim Starbucks uses for the messages on the cups – and in this area it is absolutely true. But how can you encourage people to use a travel mug? Every time a costumer brings in his own travel mug he gets a 0.10$ discount.

YouTube Preview Image

The video from the Starbucks YouTube Channel encourages consumers to participate – to join the movement, to use a travel mug and as an incentive they get a free coffee on Earth Day. This video is good example for human spirit marketing, because it addresses the anxieties of the consumers, who have become more and more sensitive for the consumption of resources over the last few years. The video also provides a solution and enables the consumer to be part of it. So it is absolutely touching their minds, hearts and souls.

Moreover the Community Service should also be remarked here. Starbucks is dedicated to encouraging people to drive positive change in their communities, because for Starbucks being responsible includes to be both a global corporate citizen and a good next-door neighbor. As a good neighbor you don’t close your eyes when there is a problem. So Starbucks and its employees – who are called partners at Starbucks – get involved with local efforts and try to create positive change. For example they spruce up parks and playgrounds. These projects are regularly announced on facebook so everybody, who wants, can join in. By means of such activities the motto of the Shared Planet Program “You and Starbucks – It’s bigger than coffee” is filled with life.

To sum it up in the end, Starbucks is for us an example for human spirit marketing, because of the wide range of efforts, the long duration of the program, the involvement of their employees (partners),customers and local communities and because the program is deeply rooted in the company’s mission statement. Furthermore Starbucks is acknowledged by various organizations for their social and environmental commitment (cf. Starbucks 2011d):
•    One of the “World’s Most Ethical Companies” – Ethisphere – 2007‐2010
•    One of the “100 Best Corporate Citizens” – Corporate Responsibility Officer/Business Ethics – 2000‐2010
•    One of the “Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World” – Corporate Knights – 2010
•    One of “The 100 Best Companies to Work For” – FORTUNE – 1998–2000, 2002–2010

This selection of awards is not complete, but proves that Starbucks makes use of Human Spirit Mar-keting. Finally it is to mention that there is no guarantee that everything a company claims to do, is actually done. But for Human Spirit Marketing it is important to create trust and involvement – and Starbucks made it.

Kotler et al. (2010): From Products to Consumers to the Human Spirit – Marketing 3.0. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons Inc.

Starbucks (2010): Global Responsibility Report 2010. Internet:
pdf/goals_progress_report_2011.pdf, 05.05.2011

Starbucks (2011a): Starbucks Shared Planet. Internet: learn-more/starbucks-shared-planet, 05.05.2011

Starbucks (2011b): Our Heritage. Internet:, 05.05.2011

Starbucks (2011c): Recycling & Reducing Waste. Internet: environment/recycling, 05.05.2011

Starbucks (2011d): Starbucks Company Recognition. Internet:, 05.05.2011

Abele, Jan (2009): Starbucks-Filialen den Hahn zudrehen. Internet:
alfonso-pantisano-starbucks-wasserverschwendung-protest?all, 05.05.2011

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