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Brewing a Sustainable Future
Starbucks has gone on to leave an indelible mark on the fabric of the Malaysian community ever since it first opened its doors here in 1998. Beyond its cultural impact and how the chain has redefined the landscape of the Malaysian coffee business since its arrival, Starbucks operates on an unwavering commitment to sustainability and fostering a compassionate community. In a recent interview with Top 10 of Asia, Dato’ Sydney Quays, the Managing Director of Berjaya Starbucks Coffee Company Sdn Bhd, talks about the journey that Starbucks Malaysia has embarked on in creating a business that extends beyond just selling coffee. It’s a story about nurturing relationships, supporting the environment, and ensuring that every Starbucks cup contributes positively to the world.
After so many years at the helm of Starbucks, Dato’ Sydney has seen many of his aspirations for the company come to fruition. These are then replaced with new goals in an ever-expanding vision to take the company forward. Asked to shed some light on his hopes for the company in the coming years, Dato’ Sydney shares, “My primary hopes and visions for the company revolve around upholding our position as Malaysia’s leading coffee brand for over 24 years. Our unwavering commitment to maintaining the highest standards of coffee excellence is instrumental in ensuring our customers consistently enjoy the finest Starbucks Experience. In tandem with these efforts, we are equally committed to addressing environmental sustainability, making certain that our progress aligns with responsible practices.”
The realisation of these hopes and dreams rests on an extensive business strategy that encompasses both short-term and long-term goals. Speaking on how Starbucks seeks to chart its way to even greater success, Dato’ Sydney says, “Our short-term priorities include strategically growing our store network, delivering cutting-edge products, improving consumer engagement through our loyalty programme, and incorporating digital technologies to enhance the overall customer experience. Our commitment to sustainability is a cornerstone of our long-term goals, with a particular focus on reducing our carbon footprint. In addition to the introduction of plant-based menu options and the implementation of energy-efficient initiatives in our stores, we’ve initiated a range of impactful efforts.”
A glittering career has seen Dato’ Sydney achieve many notable milestones, but one in particular stands out in his mind. “I’m truly proud and blessed to have achieved several notable awards and milestones during my tenure. Among the many notable accomplishments, the introduction of the Starbucks Signing store stands out as a true landmark in our journey. It’s not just a milestone; it’s a testament to our commitment to diversity and inclusivity. This innovative and bold endeavour, the first of its kind in the world, created a warm and welcoming space for the deaf community. Our vision is to continue this journey, and we aspire to have a Signing Store in each state across Malaysia.”
Of course, it hasn’t been a bed of roses for Dato’ Sydney during his time at Starbucks. Reflecting on some of the challenges he has faced during his time as managing director, he states: “I’ve certainly encountered some notable challenges over the years. One of the most significant tests of our resilience came during the challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic. This global crisis presented unprecedented obstacles to our business and the food and beverages industry as a whole. Despite the challenging times, we managed to achieve a remarkable milestone by opening the largest Starbucks Reserve in Malaysia. This was a significant accomplishment that demonstrated our commitment to growth and innovation even in the face of adversity.”
Speaking to Dato’ Sydney, it becomes immediately evident that this is a man who is an expert manager of people, and for whom leading simply comes naturally. Indeed, to guide Starbucks for so long and so successfully requires a careful hand and a deep understanding of the business and its employees. “My management and leadership styles are characterised by a strong emphasis on innovation, agility, and adaptability. I firmly believe that in a rapidly evolving business landscape, staying innovative and agile is paramount for success. We must be open to new ideas, ready to pivot when needed, and continuously seek ways to improve and grow. As my motto aptly states, the harder you work, the luckier you get.”
Beyond the coffee, Starbucks is well-regarded throughout the country for its commitment to sustainability. Invited to provide some insights into the company’s sustainability roadmap for the coming years, Dato’ Sydney reveals: “I am immensely proud of the strides we are making in our sustainability efforts. Our vision is clear, and we are committed to reducing carbon emissions by 50%, decreasing waste sent to landfills by 50%, and conserving 50% of water withdrawal across our direct operations, stores, packaging, and agriculture supply chain by 2030. These goals are not just aspirations; they are concrete targets we are determined to meet.”
It’s clear that sustainability lies at the heart of all the company does as he continues, “We believe in leading by example in the coffee industry and taking action to mitigate our environmental impact. We will continue to invest in renewable energy, implement waste reduction initiatives, and work with partners who share our commitment to responsible water management. Our dedication to sustainability is unwavering, and we are confident that our actions will not only benefit the planet but also resonate with our customers, employees, and stakeholders who believe in a better, more sustainable future.”
Starbucks’ efforts in this realm have not gone unnoticed, with the company picking up the ‘Community Engagement Award’ at the recently held Sustainability and CSR Malaysia Awards 2023 ceremony. “Receiving the award is a tremendous honour for us,” says Dato’ Sydney jovially. “It reaffirms our commitment to making a meaningful impact in the communities we serve. At the heart of our sustainability approach lies our mission, which has always set us apart: ‘With every cup, with every conversation, with every community – we nurture the limitless possibilities of human connection.’”
Having gotten a glimpse of what lies ahead in Starbucks’ sustainability journey, the conversation then turns to the initiatives Starbucks is currently involved in. “We’re currently engaged in a range of sustainability projects that reflect our deep commitment to the environment and communities we serve for almost 25 years in Malaysia. This includes expanding our network of Greener Stores, deployment of EV chargers, and Signing Stores to promote inclusivity and sustainability, as well as actively driving the use of reusable drinkware to reduce single-use waste. On top of that, we continue to promote plant-based beverage options and customisation, empowering our customers to make choices that align with their values,” says Dato’ Sydney, his signature smile lighting up the surroundings once again.
Even when it comes to sustainability, Starbucks’ zeal for innovation makes itself apparent. This can be seen in an ongoing collaboration which Dato’ Sydney explains more about. “We’re proud to pilot the FoodShare program with What A Waste (WaW), which aims to rescue surplus food and provide meals for vulnerable communities while curbing food waste. Our dedication to these initiatives exemplifies our mission to nurture human connections and make a positive difference, one cup and community at a time”.
As Starbucks enters its 25th year in the Malaysian market, Dato’ Sydney is more optimistic than ever about the brand’s future in the country. “This milestone adds an extra layer of significance to my inspiration to lead the company forward. It’s a testament to the enduring connection that Starbucks has established with the Malaysian community over the years,” says Dato’ Sydney with visible pride. “The 25-year mark signifies both our past achievements and the exciting potential that lies ahead, making it an even more compelling reason to lead Starbucks Malaysia into a vibrant and successful future.” The future is looking bright, and with companies like Starbucks making every effort to ensure a better tomorrow, Malaysians everywhere can rest easy – and maybe sip on a latte while they’re at it.