Starbucks' team members will be able to work up to 20 hours per week with local nonprofits outside of the chain's cafés.
Credit: Getty: Christopher Jue / Stringer

Starbucks has been working on a few initiatives that have nothing to do with buzzy new menu items—including eliminating plastic straws in all of its stores and donating more than 50 million meals per year to food banks. On Thursday, the socially-conscious coffee giant announced that it has launched a new pilot program that allows employees to work for local nonprofits for up to 20 hours a week.

Teaming up with international nonprofit organization Points of Light, Starbucks has selected 36 "fellows" from 13 different cities to be among the first group of employees participating in the program. All of the local nonprofits in these cities are aligned with Starbucks' official corporate outreach initiatives, which include sustainability, combating world hunger, and serving veterans and their families.

According to CNN, the initial 36 employees will spend at least 20 hours each week working in their designated Starbucks' cafés before spending another 20 hours working with a chosen nonprofit in the local community.

Virginia Tenpenny, the executive director of the Starbucks Foundation, told CNN that the company hopes that the program will help retain employees as well as improve morale. "When the fellows are "engaged in communities and they feel connected, they're going to stay with Starbucks longer," Tenpenny said.

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The Starbucks Foundation will be covering employees' salaries as they leave coffee counters to volunteer in their communities, and if the pilot goes well, there will be a new (and much larger) group of Starbucks' employees who will join other local nonprofits next year.

Starbucks' employees will not only have a chance to do some volunteer work—Tenpenny said the first group of fellows will have the opportunity to recommend where the foundation will direct resources.

As Starbucks was one of the first companies to ban plastic straws, a practice that much of the industry soon followed, we could see other chain businesses thinking about investing more into their local communities soon.