A Cuppa Justice

Just days before the launch of a nationwide grassroots campaign against Starbucks last April, the Seattle-based coffeehouse chain agreed to offer its customers fair-trade-certified coffee. As part of the agreement, Starbucks promised to sell fair-trade whole beans at every store that sells whole beans, and will offer fair-trade brewed coffee if customers request it. The company has also agreed to launch a major educational campaign to promote fair-trade coffee.

‘The company’s sudden decision highlights the increasing power of citizens’ movements to hold corporations accountable for their actions,’ noted a spokesperson for Global Exchange, one of the human rights groups that organized the protests. The announcement also underscores the growing demand for fair-trade products–that is, products made in conditions that do not exploit workers and farmers.

About half of all coffee worldwide is produced by small growers who receive 30 cents to 50 cents per pound for coffee that sells for as much as $10 to $12 per pound retail. Meanwhile, U.S. companies are reporting huge profits; in 1999, Starbucks reported net earnings of $102 million, up from $68 million for fiscal year 1998. With fair trade, coffee companies pay a minimum of $1.26 per pound and deal directly with farmer co-ops.

Fair-trade promoters say they will now turn their attention to companies that have not yet committed to offering socially responsible coffee, including Folgers, Maxwell House, Peet’s, Barrie, Seattle’s Best, and Caribou.

From Yes! A Journal of Positive Futures (Summer 2000). Subscriptions: $24/yr. (4 issues) from Box 10818, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110.

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