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August 1st, 2002
Land of Wandering Souls
Profits and Principles: 2. Coffee Cup - Starbucks

Context

In February 2000, an ABC TV news program investigated labor conditions at Guatemalan coffee plantations, some of which supplied beans to Starbucks. According to Global Exchange, a trade watch-dog group, Guatemalan farmers typically received between 30 and 50 cents for a pound of coffee that may sell for as much as $10 in the United States. By April 2000, Global Exchange had organized a nationwide letter and fax campaign, and also planned 30 demonstrations at Starbucks shops across the United States.

Policies

Three days before Global Exchange’s planned April 2000 demonstrations, Starbucks announced an agreement with TransFairUSA, to carry “Free Trade Certified” beans in all of its stores nationwide. (Fair trade coffee is purchased direct from farmers — rather than from corporate middlemen — at the minimum rate of $1.26 per pound.) In its June 2002 Web report on Social Responsibility, Starbucks also notes that for two years it has purchased some of its beans from small farms in Mexico that harvest coffee without destroying rainforest.

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