May 29, 2018 Riana

How Starbucks And Other Major Corporations Are Negotiating Very Public Apologies

Read more at Forbes.com here.

Building a sustainable and trustworthy company culture, especially in big food, is tough. I share my thoughts on an inclusive and mission-oriented Starbucks of the future.

“Consumers today are very fickle,” said Riana Lynn, who is a food and technology entrepreneur. She is also the founder of FoodTrace, a software company that allows food industry executives insight on food sourcing origins. I reached out to Lynn because as a Black expert in supply chain management and the food industry, she sits at a deeply insightful intersection of race, gender and technology. “If a situation turns into a meme or a conversation that holds true in the media a little too long, that’s kind of like what you see when someone goes through a food safety issue. That could hurt the culture and brand in a damaging way.” Lynn has seen in the companies she has managed that the damage will ultimately be felt in lost sales.

When larger corporations fumble, it can be a vital opportunity for newer companies to grab market share. “You can lose favor so fast with your biggest supporters, and it gives the advantage to smaller companies,” said Lynn. She’s also seen how cultivating intentional company culture can be a market differentiator. “A lot of food startups now are building culture and inclusion and an open learning environment into their mission as early as possible,” she said. Lynn has seen this approach prove to be a winning advantage when it comes to attracting customers and supporters who tie their values to their purchasing decisions, like Millennial consumers.

But it’s not just about short-term gain or loss. Lynn stressed the same sentiment that many people are raising when considering Starbucks’s decision to conduct their anti-bias training. It can’t just be about a one day event. “When it comes to a company like Starbucks, the best actions are long-term actions. It’s encouraging that Starbucks is having thousands of its employees take an unconscious bias training, but that’s not enough,” she said. Lynn suggests considering permanent changes that weave inclusion into the fabric of the company. “It has to be incorporated into the culture of the organization and in hiring practices of every major company, particularly public ones. Starbucks has a duty to build culture that advances the entire population, not only for the employees but also the communities that they serve.” Lynn noted that in any company related to food, minorities are relied on every day for industry success. “ The only way to solve these issues is to build solutions into your systems with long-term presence and effect.  A one day training is lost on so many people if it’s not in human resource documents or policy, or in on-going training, or embedded within permanent best practices,” Lynn noted.