Starbucks named most unethical cafe in UK

( Ethical Consumer ranked brands on 19 different categories and found Starbucks far and away the worst due to its stance on workers’ rights and its political activities.

“We’ve uncovered a record of unethical behaviour that runs completely counter to Starbucks image as an environmentally friendly, bohemian Seattle coffee shop,” said Dan Welch, the magazine’s co-editor.

“It covers everything from serving up genetically engineered growth hormone in milk in the US and a relentless union-busting campaign, to attempting to block Ethiopia’s attempts to improve the livelihoods of coffee growers and petitioning a US federal judge to allow in evidence the past sexual history of a 16-year-old former employee when she took a case of sexual harassment to court.”

Although the firm has sold Fairtrade coffee as standard in all its UK stores since 2009, the rest of the global operation has been slower on the uptake, Ethical Consumer said.

It named AMT Coffee as the most ethical brand, noting it used only Fairtrade coffee and organic milk, with Costa Coffee in second place.

Mr Welch said. “Our best buy is AMT Coffee, the first UK coffee shop to go 100% Fairtrade with its coffee and offer 100% organic milk. Ethical consumers will of course want to support coffee producers with Fairtrade, but they might spare a thought for the poverty wages and right to organise of the coffee shop worker too.”

The report, released today to coincide with the start of Fairtrade Fortnight, pointed to potentially misleading statements on some cafe chains’ websites.

Coffee Republic, for instance, refers to “fair-trade” products on its website, but does not actually sell Fairtrade branded drinks. Caffe Nero promotes “Fair Trade Coffee” on its website but admits that it doesn’t stock Fairtrade. Not all of its coffee has “traceable” origins, it states, meaning growers’ conditions cannot be measured.

A Starbucks spokeswoman defended her firm’s record, saying: “It’s disappointing that the authors appear to be wholly unaware of Starbucks widely published ethical standards which guarantee rights, wages and conditions for coffee farmers, as well as offering industry-leading environmental performance in coffee production.

“Nor are they aware that our independently verified environmental standards for stores are cutting water and energy consumption by up to 25% or that employees own a share in the company and benefit from the success of our business. Surveys show our customers rate us top for ethical performance above other coffee chains and we were named ‘most ethical coffee company in Europe’ for the last two years.”




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