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Starbucks opening center to find new ways to build, operate stores

Starbucks Corp. and Arizona State University are partnering to create a facility whose goal is to positively impact the future of the planet. 

The coffee giant and ASU are joining forces to create the ASU-Starbucks Center for the Future of People and the Planet, a research center  aimed at finding new ways to design, build and operate Starbucks stores.  Scheduled to open in December on ASU’s campus in Tempe, Ariz., the facility will be built on the same principles as Starbucks’ Tryer center, an incubation lab at the company’s support center in Seattle where employees can quickly test, learn, and adapt ideas for more rapid decision making. 

During its first year, the new center will be focused on greener stores.  It will build-out and open-source Starbucks’ Greener Stores program to continue to innovate solutions for Starbucks stores “and to inspire others to design, build and operate portfolios of buildings that minimize environmental impacts throughout their life cycle,” the retailer stated. (Launched in 2018, the Greener Stores framework is designed to set a new standard for designing, building and operating Starbucks stores, with a commitment to design, build and operate 10,000 “Greener Stores” globally by 2025.) 

As part of the effort, a roadmap will be developed for Greener Stores education efforts, with a toolkit and learning library. It will be made available for Starbucks stakeholders and other industry stakeholders. 

The nine licensed Starbucks stores that are located throughout ASU’s four campuses in the Phoenix metro area will serve as innovation labs to test and evaluate strategies resulting from center research. 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 stores are run by Aramark.)

The new center will also focus on food and wellness, and community betterment.  

“Over the last several years we have been reinventing Starbucks for our future and transforming the way we drive innovation at Starbucks,” said Kevin Johnson, Starbucks CEO. “As we continuously focus on elevating the Starbucks 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.”

The center will include scientists, researchers, and support staff, including subject-matter experts from Starbucks and ASU. Initially, more than 15 faculty and staff from across the university will support the ASU-Starbucks Center activities. As the center expands, its scope and capacity will increase leveraging ASU’s broad expertise and strength in innovation.

Starbucks first partnered with ASU in 2014 to develop the Starbucks College Achievement Plan. Since then, the partnership has expanded to include the Pathway to Admission, Starbucks Global Academy and a Sustainability Fellowship Program.

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.”

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