This week Starbucks announced it would enhance its ethical sourcing program with the investment in a new farming and research center in Costa Rica. The 240 hectare farm on Poas Volcano will become the coffee giant’s global agronomy center and is part of Starbucks’ promised commitment to source all its coffee ethically by 2015.
The new Costa Rica farm is a boost for Conservation International (CI), one of Starbucks’ closest partners within the non-profit center. CI’s coffee purchasing guidelines, or Coffee and Farmer Equity Practices (C.A.F.E.) has nudged Starbucks to partner and work with coffee growers who implement socially and environmentally responsible practices. As of 2012 Starbucks purchases 93 percent of its total coffee via the C.A.F.E. standards. The new research and development center is on top of the $70 million Starbucks has invested in ethical sourcing programs across the world.
According to a Starbucks press release, the Costa Rica R&D center will serve several purposes: new development of coffee varietals; research to help support resiliency for farmers as climate change has an impact on coffee growers; and how to balance best coffee growing practices while maintaining local biodiversity. Starbucks currently operates five farmer support centers in Africa, China and Latin America and the new Costa Rica farm will help scale those sites’ current work. Starbucks claims it will invest $1 billion in these programs by 2015 to make this 100 percent ethically sourcing promise a reality.
Starbucks always attracts its fair share of criticism here in the U.S and abroad, but the world’s largest coffee company has taken several steps recently to demonstrate an increased commitment to sustainability. Starbucks will only source sustainable palm oil by 2015, and has rolled out a $1 cup to reduce the waste its stores generate. And while a glance at garbage bins within a short radius of your local Starbucks may show otherwise, Starbucks has been experimenting with recycling programs to do something about those pesky white coffee cups. Stakeholders are correct in pushing Starbucks to do more, but this current work with CI has been instrumental in transforming the the $13 billion company into a more ethical one.
Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye is the editor of GreenGoPost.com and frequently writes about business sustainability strategy. Leon also contributes to Guardian Sustainable Business; his work has also appeared on Sustainable Brands, Inhabitat and Earth911. He will speak at San Francisco State University on climate change, the media and business on Wednesday, April 3. You can follow Leon and ask him questions on Twitter or Instagram (greengopost).
[Image credit: Starbucks and Business Wire]