Is Starbucks One of the Best Companies in America?

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Over the last five years, investors have been hard pressed to find retailers that have performed more consistently than Starbucks . The company's stock is up 280% since this time in 2009, beating out the S&P 500 by close to 200 percentage points. While it's been a solid investment, the company has also maintained its reputation as one of the best places to work. Glassdoor users have given the business 3.7 out of five stars as an employer, with 90% approving of CEO Howard Schultz's job performance.

Americans also love the java slinger, driving the company's brand value through the roof. According to Interbrand, the Starbucks brand is worth $4.4 billion, making it No. 91 worldside. Taking all that into account, here's a rundown of what Starbucks brings to each of its stakeholders.

Employees love Starbucks

For years, Starbucks has been ahead of the employee engagement curve. Depending on your role, employees working as little as 20 hours a week can be eligible for 401(k) plans, discounted stock purchases, health coverage for partners, college reimbursements, and a whole host of perks.

That's keeping Starbucks employees happy with the company and with management, and giving Starbucks an opportunity to hire the best workers it can. At a conference earlier this year, CFO Scott Maw said that growth is driven by "the daily efforts of our partners in the stores."

Starbucks in the community

The brand that Starbucks has cultivated for itself leans heavily on the company's vision of itself as a giver. It gives employees great benefits, it gives customers what they want, and it gives back to the community. Coffee is a an interesting commodity, in that it comes from some of the poorest parts of the world to be sold in some of the richest.

That can create a scenario in which the producing countries are abused, with workers poorly paid and environmental or business regulations ignored. Starbucks has put money into the communities it serves, and it spends a lot of time making sure it serves its suppliers.

Starbucks aims to have 100% of its coffee ethically sourced by 2015. The company uses a number of internal and external checks to determine that this is happening, and in 2013, 95% of its coffee was already deemed ethically sourced -- that was 377 million pounds of coffee, by the way.

Pulling it all together for investors

in addition to giving, Starbucks is clearly taking. Mainly, it takes money from coffee drinkers with incredible efficiency. In its last quarter, Starbucks increased comparable-store sales 6%, marking the 18th consecutive quarter of better than 5% increases. The company also expanded its operating margin, increased earnings per share, and boosted its average ticket.

Starbucks has fought the dilution from the large number of shares issued to employees as a benefitwith a buyback program that has actually reduced the number of outstanding shares slightly over the past 12 months .

On top of its excellent growth, Starbucks has been giving back to investors with regular, growing dividends. The company has clearly kept its investors in the front of its mind as it engages its employees and its communities.

The takeaway

Starbucks is one of the few companies in the United States that has balanced the treatment of its employees with its ability to earn money hand over fist. Even though it's done well in the past, some risks remain ahead.

The business is investing in its acquired Teavana brand, with the hope that it can replicate its coffee success with tea. That's a big bet, as Americans don't drink very much of the brew -- at least not when it's hot. The company is also expanding into new markets, which carries fresh risk.

However, given Starbucks' track record, it's easy to believe it will continue to be a good place to work, a strong contributor to its communities, and a solid investment in the near term. Its tea expansion, new college reimbursement plan for employees, and move to take a larger portion of late-night dining all point to a strong future for this winner.

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Andrew Marder has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Starbucks. The Motley Fool owns shares of Starbucks. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days . We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy .

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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