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Starbucks launch of ethical espresso draws criticism

24 September 2008 by

Starbucks has launched its Shared Planet espresso, promoted as a ‘100% responsibly-grown, ethically-traded' coffee… and, predictably, the world's media and activist forums have had a field day.

The Make Wealth History site complained that Starbucks was doing its best to avoid systems which required external monitoring of its concept of ‘ethical', while the Independent said that the concept was a kind of ‘Fairtrade-Lite', and that the chain would have done better to announce it was going to go 100% Fairtrade in three or four years' time.

The origins and other details of the coffee are vague, but in the kind of corporate statement which the company always uses to answer questions, a spokesman confirmed that Shared Planet coffee will become the standard coffee for the chain's espresso-based drinks.

"Starbucks Shared Planet establishes a new mark, guaranteeing customers that all Starbucks espresso-based beverages in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region are 100% responsibly grown and ethically traded," said the statement. "Starbucks' espresso roast has been used in all its espresso-based beverages since the late seventies - the key development is that it now meets the guidelines endorsed by Conservation International."

Shared Planet logo
Shared Planet logo
Details of Shared Planet espresso are deliberately obscure, with Starbucks only saying that it is a blend from Latin America and the Asia/Pacific region that features a rich aroma and a soft acidity balanced with a dense, caramelly sweetness.

The coffees that make up the blend are apparently grown under the guidelines of Conservation International, which is an activist on the subject of climate change.

Peter Seligmann, chairman of Conservation International, said: "Our partnership with Starbucks plays an important role in our effort to mitigate the effects of climate change in some of the most threatened areas of the world - tropical forests. By integrating the work of coffee farmers into its overall efforts to combat climate change, Starbucks is addressing head-on one of the most important issues of the day."

By Ian Boughton

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