International Fair Trade Case Study: Starbucks

October 25, 2009

As major brands across the world have signed on to market fair trade products, coffee house giant Starbucks is one of the players at the forefront, having purchased fair trade certified coffee for nearly 10 years.

Starbucks Coffee Company is an international coffee and coffeehouse chain based in Seattle, Washington, USA.  It is the largest coffeehouse company in the world, with over 16,000 stores in 49 countries. Starbucks’ major engagement in fair trade has brought the company significant attention.  Through this association, coffee farmers receive a fairer deal for their coffee, increasing profits that can be invested into their own farms.  And Starbucks’ commitment to source coffee ethically has fortified the strength of its brand, differentiating it from others.

Earlier this year, Starbucks announced its intentions to expand its purchases of fair trade certified coffee by doubling its purchases to 18 million kilos by the end of 2009, making the company the largest purchaser of fair trade coffee in the world.  This dramatic volume increase will have a far-reaching positive impact in poor coffee growing communities throughout the world.  In addition to their retail outlets, Starbucks sells fair trade coffee over the Internet on Starbucks’ e-commerce website.  Starbucks’ fair trade coffees are also sold in Wal-Mart and Costco stores, and through distributors to universities, offices, and other institutions.

Commenting on the company’s recent expansion of fair trade sourcing and product offerings, Howard Schultz, Starbucks Chairman, President and CEO, said.  “I’m proud of the role Starbucks has played in raising environmental and agricultural standards.  By doubling our commitment to fair trade certified and scaling up our global partnership, we have a unique opportunity to further reinforce our ongoing efforts to benefit farmers and communities.”


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