SEATTLE — Starbucks Corporation held its annual meeting of shareholders virtually on March 18, during which it outlined how the company has been responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In the U.S. and Canada, we implemented elevated cleaning protocols and new experiences in stores that encourage social distancing through a to-go model. We also have temporarily closed stores and reduced operating hours in communities with high clusters of COVID-19 cases, as well as in high-social-gathering locations. We’re caring for our partners with financial support beyond our sick-leave policy for those who are confirmed or even those who may have been exposed and need to self-quarantine,” shared Kevin Johnson, president, CEO and director of Starbucks Corp. “My message to Starbucks partners and customers is this: We’re making decisions, hard decisions, that prioritize your health and well-being. We’re making these decisions based on science and facts and are staying true to our mission — a mission grounded in humanity — to inspire and nurture the human spirit, one person, one cup, one neighbourhood at a time.”
The company has put programs and support in place to support its staff during this time, including catastrophe pay and benefits that support their physical and mental health.
“We made very early decisions to temporarily expand our catastrophe-pay policy…to guarantee every single partner that was positively diagnosed with COVID-19, believed they were exposed to COVID-19 or even has any suspicion that they could have the virus [could] take 14 days of paid time off to stay home and self-isolate,” explained Rossann Williams, EVP & president-U.S. company-operated business and Canada, Starbucks Corp. “And, if we made a difficult decision to close a store, we will obviously pay for our partners. In no way do we want our partners to have to choose to come to work when they’re not feeling well or [to be] afraid we’re not going to support them in these times, because that’s what we do.”
Williams released a letter to Starbucks employees earlier this month, detailing the measures put in place to support them. In addition to expanded catastrophe pay, the company is redeploying some staff impacted by adjusted hours and closures; investing up to $10 million in its Caring Unites Partners (CUP) Fund and other resources to support needs beyond pay; and temporarily expanding its Care@Work program to support those needing additional backup childcare due to school closures.
Regarding the financial impact of the pandemic, Patrick J. Grismer, EVP & CFO, Starbucks Corp., stated, “There is still much that is unknown about the impact of COVID-19. But, what is known is how it has impacted our China business, as well as what we continue to see by way of a recovery in our China business, with each passing week demonstrating improvements in sales. And this provides us confidence that as COVID-19 impacts our U.S. business, it too will have a temporary effect and we will see a recovery over time.”
“[Many of the measures] we’re applying around the world are lessons we learned in China, because our team in China had begun dealing with this [in] early to mid-January,” Johnson added. “We are resilient and our partners are the heartbeat of Starbucks.”
As part of the meeting, the company also announced Starbucks Delivers, in partnership with Uber Eats, will reach national U.S. availability by the end of April, making it available in 48 states where both companies operate.
Additionally, the company announced mental-health training sessions, inspired by Mental Health First Aid, for U.S. and Canada store managers and field leadership will be available this summer. The sessions have been developed in conjunction with the National Council for Behavioral Health to help equip leaders to support partners who may be experiencing mental-health issues, substance-use problems or crisis moments and provide them with resources for further support.