ASU, Starbucks partner on plan to protect planet

A new university center will assist in research and development of core initiatives that help communities.
By: | April 19, 2021
Photo by Ashley Quay/Arizona State University

Innovation, anyone?

Arizona State University and Starbucks are teaming up again to launch a research and incubation facility called the ASU-Starbucks Center for the Future of People and the Planet that will focus on several environmentally friendly initiatives, including promoting wellness, fostering sustainability and creating better communities.

Slated to be completed in December, the latest ASU-Starbucks endeavor will seek ways to “design, build and operate Starbucks” stores with a particular focus on creating more healthful outcomes for those being served as well as the cities and regions where there are physical locations.

“Over the last several years we have been reinventing Starbucks for our future and transforming the way we drive innovation,” said Kevin Johnson, Starbucks CEO. “As we continuously focus on elevating the experience, introducing new and exciting beverage innovation and reimagining customer experiences both in-store and through more personalized digital relationships, we constantly challenge ourselves to find new ways to give back more than we take, using our power at scale to create a better society in which we all live.”

ASU and Starbucks have worked together on several notable projects over the past seven years, including a career college achievement plan for employees to attend the university as well as a global academy and sustainability fellowship program in which students work in internships at its headquarters in Seattle. This one efforts to piggyback on the same creative spirit as Starbucks’ Tryer Center, a thinktank located at its headquarters.

It leans heavily ASU’s strengths and vision around sustainability and research, backed by the new Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory, which will be home of the new center. The effort will include 15 faculty and staff members.

“ASU and Starbucks are aligned in our missions to be of complete service to the communities we serve and build a better future for both people and the planet,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow. “Through this new center, ASU will provide unique value in terms of research and transdisciplinary expertise in order to collaborate with Starbucks to develop, test and validate strategies that can ultimately be scaled to stores and communities globally.”

According to ASU and Starbucks, the mission of the center will be focused initially on these four areas of innovation:

  • Greener Stores: The Center for the Future of People and the Planet will carry through the vision of this initiative launched by the chain in 2018 that sought to have 10,000 LEED-certified physical locations by 2025. ASU faculty and students be helping to deliver environment and cost-effective solutions, including “a toolkit and learning library” for Starbucks’ Global Academy. The company’s overall plan could defray as much as $50 million in utility costs in the next decade.
  • Food and wellness: As health-conscious consumers seek out more alternative and less traditional fast-food options, the center will be looking at ways to meet those needs as well as the potential for non-traditional menu items, such as meatless and vegan options.
  • Community betterment: Leveraging Starbucks locations as a third place for many consumers who had very few safe, welcoming and healthy environments to go during the pandemic, the Center will continue look at how to utilize those stores as beacons of change in the communities they serve.
  • Innovation Test Stores: The Center’s collaborative work will be implemented first-hand at many of the locations that exist on Arizona’s four campuses. “In-store testing will include new plant-based food and beverage offerings designed to reduce carbon intensity, strategies to improve recycling and circularity (including reusables) and new technologies including artificial intelligence and machine learning,” the partner said.