Summary: Being a force for positive action in the communities in which it operates has always been part of the “soul” of Starbucks - the importance of building a great, enduring company that strikes a balance between profitability and social conscience. With its ambitious plans to build China as its second home market outside the United States, Starbucks is determined to support thriving neighborhoods and community activities across the country.

As part of its 40th anniversary global celebrations in April 2011, Starbucks chose to highlight its commitment to community action by organizing a global month of service, inviting partners (employees) and customers, to come together to make an impact in the neighborhoods where they live and work. Its goal was to encourage more than 1,400 community projects around the world. Edelman worked with Starbucks to tailor this campaign in China.

The campaign culminated in a community service event that was hailed by the Shanghai Municipal Government as an unprecedented case study of a large scale volunteer community outreach program by a corporation in China. It also achieved real changes in attitudes and behavioral intentions, with 9 out of 10 participants pledging to change their lifestyle habits and become more environmentally friendly.


The objectives of the campaign were to:
1) Connect customers and partners to Starbucks mission and values
2) Inspire a change-maker spirit and commitment to community service among partners and customers
3) Engage and strengthen relationships with partners, customers and the broader community
4) Establish Starbucks as the leading corporate advocate in driving positive change in the community in China

Research and Planning

Agency research underlined how consumers in China want to collaborate with commercial organizations in supporting good causes. According to Edelman’s annual global Goodpurpose study, 75% of respondents in China give time or volunteer for a good cause at least once every 12 months and 78% want brands to make it easier for them to make a positive difference in the world.

The survey also shows how expectations of brands have changed, with 75% of respondents believing it is no longer enough for corporations to simply give money away to good causes: instead, they want to work alongside brands and corporations to take action and effect positive social change. The issue that most concerns them most is the environment, with 84% of respondents expecting corporations to take action to preserve and sustain the environment.

The agency research was supported by Starbucks internal research, noting that 80% of Starbucks partners globally expressed an interest in participating in volunteer activities in their communities. Specific to China, environmental protection was the most popular cause, favored by 81% of partners.

This compelling research evidence clearly provided a huge opportunity for Starbucks to meet its stakeholders’ growing expectations of brands, to deliver visible and meaningful benefits for the local communities in which it operates, and provide opportunities for people to be directly involved in driving positive change, especially in the area of environmental protection.


Edelman worked with Starbucks to identify and champion a cause that was aligned to both the needs of the community and Starbucks core values: creating ‘greener’ neighborhoods and better places to live for people in China’s increasingly urbanized and densely populated cities. All activities during the month-long campaign focused on helping partners, customers and other key stakeholders collaborate in making meaningful progress towards achieving this overarching goal. The campaign was built on three pillars:
• Locally relevant programs were created to enable volunteers to actively participate in community activities
• Partnerships were established with Charyou (a Shanghai-based NGO) and local government organizations to leverage their respective strengths in designing creative volunteer activities and mobilizing local communities
• Social and traditional media were used to engage Starbucks fans in the campaign, amplify awareness of the cause, and celebrate the best examples of community action


Throughout April, Starbucks invited partners and customers to roll up their sleeves and create positive change in their local neighborhoods by participating in community service projects in 20 cities across China. Volunteers worked on a wide range of projects including gardening, repainting walls, and setting up rubbish management systems. Interactive board games and outdoor activities were organized to educate residents and students about how to lead more environmentally friendly lifestyles. Starbucks partners also offered residents simple water saving tips, such as placing Starbucks reused plastic cup in the water tank to reduce amount of water released during flushing.

The initiative culminated in a large scale community service event where more than 750 Starbucks partners and local volunteers descended on Gumei Community in the Minhang District in Shanghai to help renovate the neighborhood in just one afternoon, demonstrating the power of collective action.

The media were invited to witness and participate in select activities and were provided with interview opportunities with volunteers and beneficiaries of the schemes. Starbucks also leveraged its online digital properties, Sina Weibo (Twitter equivalent in China) and Kaixin001 (Facebook equivalent in China), to share event pictures and experiences with fans.


Objectives 1-3:
1) Connect customers and partners to the mission and values of Starbucks
2) Inspire a change-maker spirit and commitment to community service among partners and customers
3) Engage and strengthen relationships with partners, customers and the broader community
• The campaign resulted in the direct involvement of 2,341 Starbucks partners and community volunteers in China, who collectively contributed 6,317 volunteer hours towards Starbucks Shared Planet™ goal of one million hours of community service per year by 2015.
• 93.6% of partners who participated in the campaign pledged to change their lifestyle habits by becoming more environmentally friendly, as revealed by a post event survey conducted by Charyou.
• Significant online interest and chatter were sparked by Starbucks posts and tweets on the initiative.
o Eight Tweets contributed by Starbucks official account on Sina Weibo generated 642 comments/ retweets and social media discussion of Starbucks global month of service led to a further 128+ tweets.
o Three posts by Starbucks on Kaixin001 generated 2,000+ page-views/ comments/ retweets.
• Over 82.7 million media impressions were generated from the campaign.

Objective 4: Establish Starbucks as the leading corporate advocate in driving positive change in China
• The program was recognized as an unprecedented case study for large scale volunteer community service programs by other corporations in Shanghai as well as the Shanghai Municipal Government, which identified the Gumei community as a model unit for its partnership with Starbucks
• AmCham invited Starbucks to share its best practice with member companies. Taking the Green Community Action as a model, AmCham has launched community activities through their Make a Difference Volunteer Alliance.
• Starbucks corporate social responsibility manager received a number of enquiries from peers in other companies interested in finding out more about the program. Intel and Amway are two multinational companies that have followed Starbucks lead by forging partnerships with Charyou to organize community service projects.
• Strong relationships were built with Charyou and local community governments across China, which serves as a solid foundation for future collaboration.