With over 160 stores in the country, the Starbucks coffee chain employs hundreds of mostly young Filipinos. These “millennials” tend to be very vocal about their likes, dislikes and what they believe in, often taking to various social media platforms.
While this “oversharing” can sometimes border on the obnoxious, it does not put off Noey T. Lopez, chief operating officer of Rustan Coffee, authorized licensee of Starbucks Coffee International Inc.
“I think the demographic of Rustan Coffee employees are millennials who are into participating, being active and doing something. They’re more open about everything and are not afraid to express themselves,” Lopez told Inquirer Lifestyle.
He has noted also that these “partners” (the term used at the company instead of employees) are more than willing to help others out if given the chance. For two years now, Starbucks Philippines has collaborated with Teach for the Philippines (TFP) in its annual Renovate to Educate (RED) project that aims to improve the learning environment through classroom refurbishment.
Volunteers rebuild chairs, desks, bathroom doors and blackboards in public schools in Manila and nearby areas like Laguna. Weeks before a scheduled RED project, a call for volunteers is opened to Starbucks partners.
“We ask them if they want to join, and they always do. What’s nice is we have limited slots, and we’re always oversubscribed. I think the project resonates with our partners. They say, ‘Some of us came from public schools, too,’ so they’re able to give back in a concrete way,” Lopez said.
This “giving back to the community” is not new for Starbucks Philippines. In the past, they worked with Unicef, where they launched SparkHope, a program that allowed each Starbucks store in the country to adopt a barangay, and provide early childhood care and education for children under six years old living in that barangay.
According to figures from Unicef, the SparkHope project raised close to P1.7 million for their early childhood care program.
“One of the pillars of Starbucks is community involvement. We provide financial support, but we also support them through the voluntary help of our partners. When we participate in Teach for the Philippines’ projects, we spend for the renovation of these schools’ facilities,” Lopez said. So far, Starbucks employees have volunteered over 1,000 hours for TFP. Their weekends are spent fixing beat-up chairs and desks, and installing new bathroom doors and blackboards. Lopez says he expects this partnership with TFP to continue.
“Once we choose an organization to work with or assist, we stay with them so it can be more meaningful. It’s not just a one-shot thing,” he said. “Education is very relevant; there are a lot of institutions that do good work. When it comes to education, we’re not experts, so it’s good we’re able to work with TFP as they can really get results.”
Of Starbuck’s young and vocal partners, Lopez has this to say: “This workforce cares about more than just making money. They need a good reason to work for a company, as well.”