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January 14, 2021

Starbucks to invest $100 million in racial equity projects in Philly, other cities

Business Starbucks
Starbucks Racial Equity Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

A new Starbucks initiative will invest $100 million into projects that advance racial equity and environmental resilience in 12 cities, including Philadelphia.

Philadelphia is one of 12 metropolitan regions where Starbucks is committing to support small businesses and neighborhood development projects in neighborhoods comprised of people of color. 

The coffee giant has created the Starbucks Community Resilience Fund to invest $100 million by 2025 in projects that aim to advance racial equity and environmental resilience.

Atlanta, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New Orleans, New York City, San Francisco Bay area, Seattle and Washington, D.C. also have been chosen.

The new initiative comes as many small businesses have been forced to temporarily or permanently shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Starbucks does not have a sterling reputation when it comes to racial equity in Philadelphia. The company drew sharp criticism in 2018 when two Black men were arrested for sitting in one of the chain's Center City coffeeshops without buying anything. 

The men were holding a business meeting and waiting for a friend. When one of them asked to use the bathroom, a store manager denied his request and called police. A video of them being escorted out in handcuffs went viral.  

The incident led to a $200,000 settlement and prompted the chain to put its employees through racial bias trainingStarbucks also now allows anyone to use its bathrooms.

As part of the new initiative, Starbucks will partner with neighborhood leaders and community development financial institutions to fund the projects, including some that will address climate change.

Funding will be allocated to local financial institutions that will in turn provide small businesses and neighborhood projects with the necessary financial resources.

The business and development projects will have access to mentorship and technical assistance through the program, including flexibility on loan repayments and an easier underwriting process.

"Starbucks has always been a company focused on caring for our partners, creating experiences for our customers and playing a positive role in our communities and throughout society," Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson said. "We are excited to make this investment as it aligns with our mission and values and supports our aspiration to advance equity and opportunity in the communities we serve."

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