Starbucks achieves pay equity in 2018, announces new sustainability efforts

By StarbucksFOXBusiness

Starbucks looks to stars to attract more customers; price at the pump skyrockets

Morning Business Outlook: Starbucks is about to make it easier for customers to earn free stuff by allowing rewards members to earn stars sooner; U.S. retail gas prices starting to rise in what is known as the 'spring surge.'

Starbucks achieved race and gender pay equity in the U.S. for the second year in a row, the company said on Wednesday, part of a series of announcements the coffee chain made on new investments in food technology and sustainability efforts.

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On top of the U.S., China and Canada were the first international markets to ensure men and women of all races are paid equally for the same job, Starbucks said.

Meanwhile, the Seattle-based company will trial a new, recyclable and compostable coffee cup in the U.S. and Canada over the next year, as well as new lids with 9 percent less plastic that will replace straws for most Starbucks drinks in 30,000 stores by 2020.

“Our long-term plan for growth with focus and discipline is built on the acknowledgement that the pursuit of profit is not in conflict with the pursuit of doing good,” CEO Kevin Johnson said. “We are a part of millions of people’s everyday lives around the world, and I believe we are uniquely positioned to be one of the most enduring brands of all time.”

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The firm is also investing $100 million in private equity firm Valor Siren Ventures for a new fund focused on companies that are “developing technologies, products, and solutions relating to food or retail,” according to a release.

And on Tuesday, Starbucks said it would revamp its loyalty program -- which has nearly 17 million members and accounts for 40 percent of sales – to give participants more chances to get free items.

The announcements come ahead of Starbucks' annual shareholder meeting on Wednesday. The company said it will pursue an accelerated $2 billion share repurchase program, part of a commitment to return an overall $25 billion to investors.

Starbucks previously reported a 10 percent increase in sales in fiscal year 2018 to $24.7 billion.

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For 2019, the company is expanding aggressively in China, where it plans to open hundreds of new stores.

Starbucks has faced new competition from Luckin Coffee, which opened its first location in China in 2018 but has quickly swelled to nearly 2,000 stores. The company previously announced a partnership with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba to provide delivery from 2,000 stores in the country.

Still, growth has slowed as same-store sales rose 1 percent in the first quarter of 2019, a drop from the 6 percent increase a year ago.

"Our business continues to be very healthy in China," Johnson told Fox Business on Wednesday. "We are playing the long- ame. Certainly when we look to the future China is going to remain one of our two targeted" growth areas, along with the U.S.

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Apart from its own ventures, the company has earned ample attention as former CEO Howard Schultz flirts with a presidential run as an independent -- a decision that top Democrats deride as providing a clear pathway to victory for President Donald Trump.