Is Starbucks Really Fair Trade or Are They Just Saying They Are?

There was a huge amount of pressure put on Starbucks for years to carry and brew Fair Trade coffee.  They finally gave into the pressure and started carrying Fair Trade whole bean coffee called “Estima.”  But that’s not brewing and selling primarily Fair Trade coffee, now is it?

I was in the Green Hills Starbucks (in Nashville) last week and asked the guy behind the counter:  “Can I get Fair Trade, organic coffee already brewed?”  His reply floored me:  “Not together you can’t.  We don’t sell both organic and Fair Trade together.  You can have one or the other…but we’re out.”  Weird how my friends (in many different states) decided to see if I was crazy when I say “they ALWAYS say they just ran out!”  So a bunch of them tested me on it and sure enough, they ALL got the same “we just ran out line.”

Ummmmm, so I can choose between toxic chemicals or slave wage coffee ‘cuz Starbucks is always mysteriously out when you request fresh brewed?  Yuck.

Well, when I read the Starbuck’s site, it would seem that they are leading the charge in the Fair Trade /Organic / Sustainable coffee market and that 84% of their coffee is now Fair Trade.   But I suspect they’re “sort of” lying…which means I don’t know if they’re telling the truth or not and it really bugs me!

I’ve noticed a trend in big companies…they use Fair Trade and Sustainable interchangeably…and I personally suspect that is smoke and mirrors, folks. If 99% of the world’s coffee is NOT Fair Trade…then are the “sustainable” farmers Starbucks talks about ACTUALLY getting fair wages and prices for their crops?

By the same token, if farmer’s in developing countries are pressured into using sustainable farming practices…which is probably more expensive for them (but maybe not — petrochemicals and toxic pesticides are actually quite expensive) but don’t get fair prices…will they continue these practices?

Fair Trade means the  farmers are paid a fair living wage for the coffee they grow. Sustainable means farming practices that are good for the environment…but doesn’t mean that farmers who use these practices get a fair price for what they produce!

I’ve come up with something in my head that makes sense to me…”Save the People, Save the Planet.”  PEOPLE are the ones hurting the planet and some are doing so because they see no other way to support their hungry children (and I would do anything for my child as I’m sure you would too.)  So if that means cutting down the rainforest because people will buy the wood, then cut they will.

BUT if you work on saving the people and providing fair prices and allow them the dignity of earning a fair living…then they will work to save precious resources too.  I mean seriously, does anybody THINK that people in poor countries WANT to wipe out the planet we all share?  Of course they don’t!  But they want to feed their kids too and a hungry baby’s cries are more immediate then a desert forming where a lush tropical jungle once stood.

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Child Labor-Free Cocoa ‘Almost Impossible,’ Nestlé Chairman Says

According to the chairman of Nestlé SA, one of the world’s largest buyers of cocoa, it’s “nearly impossible” to end the practice, Dow Jones reports.  Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, whose company has come under fire in the past for purchasing cocoa from countries where child exploitation occurs, went on to say: “It’s a very fine edge. You cannot say that no child can work in a rural environment. That is almost impossible. What we try to ensure is that they have access to schooling.” “If they have the access to good schooling, then the child labour as such, if it is helping the fathers in the field and helping with the harvesting, I don’t think this is a problem,” he said, according to Reuters. “The problem is when you use the children only for that and don’t allow them to go to school.”  >> View Full Story


COMMENTS ON THIS ARTICLE:
Emdubya
1:46 PM on March 23, 2011
Describing the issue as simply one of “child labour” is misleading in the extreme. The real issue is slavery in the production of chocolate, including child slavery. It’s well-documented in the Cote d’Ivoire, where 40% of the worlds cocoa is produced. To try to cast the debate as one that is only about whether children should have the opportunity to support their families on cocoa farms is dishonest. Not to mention that those children who are not slaves may nonetheless be very young. Over 30% of children under 15 work in agriculture, much of it cocoa production, mainly for subsistence. It’s not the same as Switzerland where participation in the harvest is merely cultural.

CentreWing Ontarian
1:55 PM on March 23, 2011
Almost impossible? So it’s not impossible. Make it possible. Make it happen. Thank you.

2468ten
1:39 PM on March 23, 2011
Read Carol Off’s excellent book “Bittersweet” to find out more about the horrors of the Ivory Coast cocoa trade. Child labour? More like child slavery. A child is quoted as saying something to this effect: when you eat chocolate, you eat my flesh. Look for fair trade, and hope there’s truth in labelling.

Emdubya
1:51 PM on March 23, 2011
I’d like to add to my earlier statement that Nestlé’s position on child labour and slavery makes it “almost impossible for me to buy their products.”

time2evolve
2:36 PM on March 23, 2011
The article ends with “If children have access to schooling, is child labour okay? Would you still buy that chocolate?”

Not from the likes of Nestle!

For one, “child labour” says nothing of the actual conditions of these children, so it is difficult to make such a judgement based on this single ‘fact’.

But there are many other ethical reasons to avoid companies like Nestle

These guys also knowingly used sleazy marketing tactics to get poor, developing world mothers to switch from breast milk to baby milk formula (which they could neither afford nor mix with clean water… many children died as a result).

Not to mention that their push to acquire palm oil at any cost is driving the orangutan into extinction.

Child labour is but one of many reasons to boycot companies like Nestle

Bob_J1
2:36 PM on March 23, 2011
I find highly Offensive, Hypocritical & Disingenuous for the Head of one of the largest Multi-National Corporations to compare Swiss Kids harvesting Wine on Holidays to Starving destitute African Kids.

Also alarming is the use of Palm Kernel Oil from Indonesia etc that kills Orangutan Habitat.

I quit Nestle Products & now only buy Fair Trade Organic Food.

jimmy smith
2:29 PM on March 23, 2011
“Child labour-free cocoa ‘almost impossible,’ Nestlé head says”

between the lines what he is really saying is that he and Nestle board of directors are only caring about “bottom line” and are indifferent, maybe even support child slavery in Ivory Coast.

do not call it “labour”, it is slavery situation.

personally I advise you to stay away from products by this company. instead of leading to changes that would reduce and eliminate child slavery from chocolate, they prefer to PR us that it is not possible.

I purchase my chocolate products only from certified Fair Trade producers, it costs me just a few dollars extra a month

Blagger
4:15 PM on March 23, 2011
If we can’t even agree that exploiting children for profit is a bad thing, then what hope is there for humanity?

Would it kill you to pay a little bit more for a chocolate bar or can of cocoa? Would it be the end of the world if Nestle made little bit less profit each year? It’s not like Nestle is just scraping by. I wonder how much their executives get paid, compared to what these poor kids are paid.

j howe
2:57 PM on March 23, 2011
YOU CAN MAKE UP ALL THE BS EXCUSES YOU WANT THE BOTTOM LINE IS CORPORATE GREED.

JimBo from Victoria
2:45 PM on March 23, 2011
The president of Nestle knows exactly what the protests are about. And it ain’t about helping with the wine harvest at the end of the school year in Switzerland. This is a smokescreen to whitewash Nestle’s dependence on child labour as a cheap yet unethical source of labour. Sickening.

Vickky Angstrom
2:43 PM on March 23, 2011
One of the stupidest excuses you will hear is, “well, at least they have jobs.”

Yeah, but their parents don’t.

The kids are not working because there is a labour shortage. They are working because Nestles won’t hire adults.

overthehill
1:38 PM on March 23, 2011
Sum up for the average person;

Child free labour is almost impossible without compromising our company profits.
We are just NOT going to implement that!

Besides, most of our customers do not care who IS employed anyway,
they would still buy under whatever conditions the workers might endure.

Samuel Lount
3:31 PM on March 23, 2011
You can go back to the 1800’s in England, and find the same arguements as to why we should send kids down into the coal mines.

The President of Nestle is a scum bag, trying to compare the work done by kids on our farms and in Switzerland to what goes on in a Coacoa Plantation. What he’d like to keep drawing attention away from is that many of these kids are forced to work, and are not paid. And, there’s little Nestle or Cadbury can do to garantee their product is not a product of slave labour– be they against it or for it.

I continued buying chocolate because I believed the P.R. smokescreen that things had improved for not just kids but workers in the highly exploitive industry. Discovering that it was all b*llshi* P.R. means I haven’t purchased chocolate and I doubt I will again.

Not that my money makes a difference.

It’s a personal decision not to be a link in slavery.

David388
3:24 PM on March 23, 2011
If companies like Nestle insisted only on fair trade cocoa, the farmers would have a reasonable income and standard of living. Then they wouldn’t have to ask their kids to help. Charitable donations from Nestle to local education is just more Nestle window-dressing, which has been their approach to social issues for decades on end.

Most Major Brands Surpass Hershey in Responsible Cocoa Sourcing

Change.org
by Tim Newman · December 02, 2010

New commitments to sustainable cocoa from some of the largest cocoa and chocolate companies in the world have left Hershey even farther behind its competitors in responsible sourcing practices. In the past month, Barry Callebaut and Unilever have made significant agreements to produce chocolate products certified to meet international labor standards, greatly increasing the global production and demand of sustainable cocoa. As an industry that has long been tainted by child labor, forced labor and trafficking, it is critical that chocolate companies take responsibility for the conditions under which their cocoa is produced. Why is Hershey so far behind?  >> Read Full Story