The cornerstone of Starbucks’ approach to responsible sourcing is its Coffee and Farmer Equity (C.A.F.E.) Practices, the brand’s comprehensive coffee-buying program that ensures coffee quality while promoting social, economic, and environmental standards. C.A.F.E. Practices, which were developed in collaboration with Conservation International (CI) more than a decade ago, has impacted more than a million workers employed by thousands of participating farms. Starbucks is not only committed to increasing its own C.A.F.E. Practices purchases, but also to making the program available to the entire coffee-growing industry—even competitors. Through its “open-source” approach, the brand shares its tools, best practices, and resources to help all producers make improvements in the long-term sustainability of their farms.
In August 2013, Starbucks also forged a first-of-its-kind relationship with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to help improve coffee yields as well as the livelihoods of 25,000 farmers throughout some of Colombia’s most remote and conflict-impacted farming regions. USAID and Starbucks will each contribute $1.5 million over three years to provide technical support, technology, and market opportunities to small-scale coffee farmers in Colombia’s rural regions of Antioquia, Tolima, Huila, and Cauca.
The Green Advantage
Starbucks set some ambitious goals in 2008 to be realized by 2015, but is, so far, getting mixed results. The “heart and soul” of its company, high-quality coffee that is responsibly grown and ethically traded is one of Starbucks’ biggest sustainability commitments. It honors this commitment through its Coffee and Farmer Equity (C.A.F.E.) Practices, farmer support centers, loan programs, and forest conservation efforts. Making major headway on its goal to ethically source 100% of its coffee beans by 2015, 95% of all Starbucks coffee was ethically sourced by the end of the 2013. While Starbucks is committed to purchasing a renewable energy equivalent to 100% of the electricity used in its company-operated stores by 2015, the brand is finding it challenging to meet this goal as it continues to grow internationally. Falling behind a bit on its green building goals as well in 2013, 65% of stores opened achieved LEED certification, compared to 69% in 2012, and 75% in 2011. With waste reduction being another challenge for the brand, Starbucks has introduced more in-store recycling, offers a USD $1 reusable tumbler with 10-cent refills, and encourages customers to use personal tumblers. Though the use of reusable tumblers has increased by 22% in 2013, Starbucks is still searching for the perfect eco-cup and is attempting to crowdsource a winning innovation through its Beta Cup Challenge. As its efforts, past and present, indicate, Starbucks has been a leader in corporate social responsibility before the term became mainstream. However, as other leading companies take leaps forward in this space, the popular coffee brand will have to explore ways to accelerate its progress to stay ahead.
Building greener stores
Cups and materials
The Beta Cup Challenge
Starbucks community stores serve as a catalyst for change in the communities where they do business