Saturday, March 11

Can a mega-company be a good company?

The Bite:
Lining street corners in 33 countries, the ubiquitous Starbucks coffeehouse has become one, if not the, postmodern symbol of economic development. This company affects the lives of 25 million+ farmers in 70 countries. Harnessing its powerful position in the global marketplace, Starbucks uses its power to not only amass wealth for its shareholders but also fuel long-term social and environmental sustainability. (And this, dear Biters, is why Starbucks has become a poster child of sorts for Corporate Social Responsibility, or CSR).

(Note: this is the 2nd in a series of a new type of tip called the Ideal Bite “Green Chip Company Showcase.” Each month, Ideal Bite will interview and tell you about 2 companies that are making strides to help green the world. Some companies will be smaller, green-focused businesses, while others will be more traditional, blue chip companies that may surprise you with their sustainability initiatives)

Company Background
Ben Packard, head of Environmental Affairs, told Ideal Bite, “Starbucks has integrated CSR initiatives since day one as part and parcel of the company’s core values.” Five years ago the company took a big step forward when it signed on to the United Nations Global Compact. Since then, the company has published an annual CSR report - a tell-all on how Starbucks performs on social and environmental metrics.

Why Would You Care?

  • In 2005, Starbucks purchased 11.5 million pounds of Fair Trade Certified coffee, making it the largest purchaser of FTC coffee in North America.
  • Will soon make industry history with the release of a 10% Post Consumer Fiber (PCF) cup. In one year, this change will preserve 78,000 trees, the energy to power 640 homes for a year, the water to fill 71 Olympic-size pools, and 109 garbage trucks fully loaded with solid waste.
  • Committed to purchasing 20% of its yearly electricity consumed in the form of Green-eremoving 12,194 cars from the road for a year. certified wind renewable energy certificates. In 2006, this will have the same impact as
  • Offering a 10-cent discount for using a re-usable commuter mug reduced 655,000 pounds of paper waste during 2004.
  • Developed Coffee and Farmer Equity (C.A.F.E.) Practices, a set of environmentally, socially and economically responsible coffee buying guidelines. Starbucks paid a 23% price premium on 76.8 million lbs of coffee during 2005.

Got questions or comments for Starbucks? Tell us at the Ideal Bite Blog, and we will try to get them answered for you.

Keeping it Real
In recent years the coffee mogul has come under fire for claims that it is swallowing indie coffee shops whole, that its coffee isn’t fairly traded, and that its baristas aren’t paid a sustainable wage. Rather than skirt the issues, Starbucks has chosen to engage with stakeholders and their concerns. The company goes a step further, recognizing and disclosing its weaknesses in its 2005 CSR Report .

This tip was reviewed by Christina Arena , Ideal Bite Expert Panelist.

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