Starbucks and conservation international

Starbucks and conservation international

As part of its social responsibility, starbucks entered into a partnership with Conservation International to promote coffee farming methods that were environmental friendly. In the early 1990s, global coffee prices had gone up and this had led to over cultivation as farmers all over the world wanted to take advantage of this business opportunity. By 2002, the prices global coffee had already to started to go down since the supply of coffee exceeded its demand. This collapse of the world coffee markets left many farmers in problems since they did not know what to do with their product. At the same, many environmental organizations were up in arms blaming poor coffee production methods for the existing environmental degradation. As one of the leading companies in specialty coffee production, Starbucks felt compelled to act and come up with ways of ensuring that coffee production was economically, socially and environmentally sustainable.

From inception, Starbucks has remained committed to its mission statement which states that the company will always strive to contribute positively to the community and the environment as well. Social responsibility has for a long time been a key principle of the Starbucks and the company has contributed a lot to the community including communities from where it buys its coffee. An example Starbucks contribution to the community was in 1991 when it donated $1.8 million to international relief efforts through CARE international. As an indication of how serious the company was on matters of social responsibility, Starbucks formed the corporate social responsibility department which would handle issues like environment, literacy programs, international relief efforts and community volunteering among others.

After thorough research, Conservation International identified coffee farming a threat to biodiversity and conservation in coffee producing nations. According to this research, twenty five million acres of forests land had been cleared around the world to pave way for coffee plantations. The report also stated that clearing of forests was expected to continue in countries like Brazil and Vietnam unless something was done. Traditionally, coffee was grown under shaded conditions but this changed in the 1980s when high yielding varieties were introduced. This new variety was not grown under shaded conditions but in full sunlight and used a lot of agrochemicals. To help in conservation, CI initiated a program in a buffer zone in El Triunfo in Chiapas Mexico. Fro many years, coffee was cultivated very close to the El Triunfo reserve it was feared that if nothing was done, the reserve would disappear. The Chiapas conservation project promoted coffee farming under shade therefore eliminating the need to cut down trees. CI contacted Starbucks and both companies joined to undertake the Chiapas project. Starbucks contributed $600,000 towards the project for three years and promised to buy all shade produced coffee from the project. This would motivate more farmers to stop producing coffee in open fields and embrace coffee production under shade.

After the Chiapas project, Starbucks in collaboration with Conservation International instituted new coffee buying guidelines. These guidelines were designed to ensure that Starbuck only purchased coffee from producers who met economic, environmental and quality standards set by the company. These measures were aimed at ensuring that everybody in the coffee industry played their part in conserving the environment as well as making a positive contribution to the world coffee community. In 2000, Starbucks faced protests from the Fair Trade Movement with accusations paying too little to poor coffee farmers. After some lengthy discussions, Starbucks entered into an agreement with TransFair USA where TransFair would provide certification to all starbucks coffee sold in the US. Transfair would also keep track of Starbucks processes like coffee roasting and retailing to ensure that minimum prices were paid to all farmer cooperative societies.


James E. Austin, Cate Reavis (2004). Starbucks and Conservation International. Harvard business school

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