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How We Approach Ethical Sourcing

4 Minutes
FACT SHEET A Holistic Approach to Ethical Sourcing

We strive to cultivate lasting relationships with the people who grow our products and create our manufactured goods as we work together to produce high-quality, ethically sourced products. Our approach includes responsible purchasing practices, farmer support efforts, social responsibility standards for suppliers, and environmental programs.



The cornerstone of our approach to sourcing coffee is Coffee and Farmer Equity (C.A.F.E.) Practices, our comprehensive coffee-buying program that ensures coffee quality while promoting social, economic and environmental standards. Developed in collaboration with Conservation International, farms and mills are evaluated using a comprehensive scorecard of more than 200 indicators by third-party verification organizations, overseen by SCS Global Services. In 2012, 90% of our coffee was C.A.F.E. Practices verified. We have also offered Fairtrade coffee since 2000, and are now one of the largest purchasers of Fairtrade certified coffee in the world. In 2012, 44.4 million pounds (8.1%) of our coffee purchases were Fairtrade certified. We also purchased 8.7 million pounds (1.6%) of certified organic coffee in 2012.


In 2012, 93% of our coffee was ethically sourced through C.A.F.E. Practices, Fairtrade and/or other externally verified or certified programs, with some coffees receiving multiple verifications or certifications. It is our goal that by 2015, 100% of our coffee will be sourced this way.


In total, Starbucks has invested more than $70 million in collaborative farmer programs and activities over the past 40 years, which include C.A.F.E. practices, farmer support centers, farmer loans and forest carbon projects. In 2013, we decided to expand these efforts with the development of a global agronomy center in Costa Rica. Read more about this effort here.



We’ve worked with the Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP) since 2005 to collaborate with others in the industry, and to make sure that our tea is produced in a socially responsible way. In 2012, 100% of the estates that we sourced from were part of ETP and subject to audit under ETP’s guidelines. Our work with ETP is complemented by our support of the CHAI (Community Health and Advancement Initiative) project with Mercy Corps. Since 2003 CHAI has directly impacted 75,000 people and their families in more than 200 farming communities in India and Guatemala. 



Our approach to buying cocoa is also based on a commitment to ensuring a long-term supply of high-quality, ethically sourced cocoa while contributing positively to the environment and to cocoa-farming communities. Our Cocoa Practices program seeks to verify the supply chain for the cocoa beans used in our beverages, with inspections performed by independent verifiers overseen by SCS Global. 



Whether it’s the merchandise on our shelves, the furniture in our stores or the aprons worn by our baristas, we’ve set strong standards for our suppliers and offer them assistance when corrections need to be made to their business practices. Adherence to those standards informs our sourcing decisions and ensures we are working with suppliers who share our commitment to ethical sourcing. Our buyers work directly with suppliers, negotiating contracts for the products we need in our operations or sell to our customers. 



We know our success as a company is linked to the success of the thousands of farmers who grow our coffee. Starting in 2004 with our first farmer support center in Costa Rica, Starbucks agronomists collaborate directly with coffee farmers to encourage responsible growing practices and improve the quality and size of their harvests. We have continued to expand the program, and share our coffee knowledge with farming communities through our satellite office in Guatemala City and additional farmer support centers in Kigali, Rwanda, and Mbeya, Tanzania. In 2012 we opened new centers in Manizales, Colombia and Yunnan Province, China. Ultimately, these efforts can help farmers earn better prices and become more resilient, long-term producers.


In 2013, we continue d to expand our $70 million comprehensive ethical sourcing program with a new farming research and development center in Costa Rica. We are adapting an active 240-hectare farm located on the slopes of the Poas Volcano into a global agronomy center. In addition to supporting resiliency for farmers around the world, this farm will also influence the development of coffee varietals based on the insight offered through soil management processes. 



Providing access to credit at reasonable terms is a critical aspect of our farmer support model. Our goal is to invest in farmers and their communities by increasing our farmer loans to $20 million by 2015. In 2012, we increased our total commitment to $15.9 million, including an additional $1.3 million placed in the Fair Trade Access Fund set up by Incofin Investment Management, Grameen Foundation and Fairtrade International. The fund provides financial and technical assistance to address the needs of smallholder farmers by investing in Fairtrade producer organizations and cooperatives. 

For More Information

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