From: Paul Geary, ENN
Published March 16, 2005 12:00 AM

Despite Many Social-Responsibility Programs, Disagreement over Starbucks

Starbucks, the ubiquitous coffee-shop company, has a reputation for progressive corporate practices and environmental stewardship, but not everyone agrees that the company is doing all it can for the environment.


The company produces an annual report specifically about its corporate social responsibility, unlike many companies. Regarding the environment in particular, the company has numerous programs, such as its participation in Earth Day, its "Environmental Footprint Team," which measures the company's environmental footprint," and its "Green Team," which looks at the company's overall environmental performance.


In 2004, Starbucks was named a "Recognized Leader" by the EnviroStars business certification program. It was named one of the top 100 Corporate Citizens by Business Ethics Magazine that year as well. The company has received numerous other awards and recognition for its corporate responsibility.


However Global Exchange, a San Francisco-based Human Rights Organization, in 2002 criticized Starbucks, saying that smaller coffee procurers such as Canton, Massachusetts-based Equal Exchange bought more Fair Trade-registered coffee than the giant Starbucks at the time. Fair Trade coffee registration includes shade-grown coffee, which is shown to be healthier to the environment.


Protesters routinely greet the company's shareholder meetings in Seattle.


In 2004, John Winsor at book publisher 800-CEO-READ wondered on the company's weblog whether Starbucks use of a new cup from recycled material was from genuine care for the environment, or was merely self-serving.


And today, the Organic Consumers Association continues to promote a boycott of Starbucks, saying the company uses products that contain recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone, and doesn't buy and sell enough Fair Trade coffee.


That hasn't stopped many organizations from giving numerous awards to the company for its practices.


And Starbucks is clearly winning the debate at the cash register: The company saw revenue of $5.3 billion in 2004, up from $2.6 billion in 2001. The company's stock price has nearly tripled since January of 2003.


Sources: Starbucks Corporation, GreenBiz.com, Hoover's Inc., Organic Consumers Association


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