In 2001, Starbucks developed socially responsible coffee buying practices that have now evolved into set of guidelines called C.A.F.E. Practices (Coffee and Farmer Equity Practices) in conjunction with the nonprofit environmental organization Conservation International. These guidelines are designed to help us work with coffee farmers to ensure high-quality coffee and promote equitable relationships with farmers, workers and communities, as well as protect the environment. C.A.F.E. Practices buying guidelines are part of a larger effort by Starbucks to be socially responsible in our relationships with coffee farmers and communities. C.A.F.E. Practices is the evolution of a pilot program. During the pilot phase, Starbucks made adjustments to the program based on feedback from a variety of industry experts including farmers, exporters, NGOs, government agencies and verification organizations. It hired an outside organization to help develop program criteria, materials and improve the application process and clarified verification and auditing standards.
We are taking an integrated approach to building mutually beneficial relationships with coffee communities — many elements work together to support this.
Components of Starbucks integrated approach are:
- Paying premium prices to help coffee farmers make profits and support their families.
- Encouraging participation in C.A.F.E. Practices (Coffee and Farmer Equity Practices), a set of responsible coffee buying guidelines, by offering preferential buying status for participants that score the highest in social and environmental criteria on verified reports. We began inserting financial transparency in to our standard contracts.
- Providing access to affordable credit to coffee farmers through various loan funds so that farmers can invest in their farms and their success in to the future
- Investing in social development projects in coffee producing countries
- Purchasing conservation (shade grown) and certified coffees (Fair Trade Certified and certified organic) to promote responsible environmental or economic efforts.
- Collaborating with farmers through the Farmer Support Center, located in Costa Rica, to provide technical support and training that promotes high-quality, sustainable coffee for the future.
- Starbucks hopes that our actions help ensure the stability of coffee farmers and future supply of high-quality coffee and set high standards for the coffee industry.
Social investments in origin countries
As part of our ongoing commitment to the people and places where Starbucks coffee is grown, we’ve established partnerships with international nonprofit organizations that share our sustainability concerns. We also support community projects to improve the well-being of families in coffee-farming regions.
Starbucks believes that during such economic cycles, the traditional system is not beneficial to farmers. Starbucks believes the recent rise in market prices is a positive development. However, history has shown that the market is extremely volatile.
For all coffee Starbucks buys, it is our goal to pay premium prices that result in a profit for the farmer.
Statement regarding coffee prices on the New York Board of Trade (the “C” market): The world coffee market has historically been susceptible to price fluctuations, which are linked to global supply and demand. In 2001, green coffee prices hit a 30-year low, adversely affecting many coffee farmers. Regardless of market fluctuations, Starbucks has always been committed to purchasing high-quality coffee in a socially responsible manner. (See messaging regarding the Integrated Approach).
Under C.A.F.E. Practices, Starbucks buys on a preferential basis from farmers who do the following:
- Meet prerequisites for high-quality coffee and economic transparency (documentation providing information on how much money the farmer received)
- Implement the social and environmental guidelines of C.A.F.E. Practices
- Score high in measurements of socially responsible working conditions and standards and progressive environmental practices
- Requiring economic transparency is a relatively new practice in the coffee industry. While it is an enormous challenge and may take several years, we are committed to analyzing the transparency information received from C.A.F.E. Practices participants that we will be able to make purchasing decisions based on farmers receiving an equitable share of the price we pay.
- There are three status levels for C.A.F.E. Practices suppliers: Strategic, Preferred, and Verified. Starbucks buys on a preferential basis from C.A.F.E. Practices approved suppliers.
C.A.F.E. Practices was developed with guidance from the nonprofit environmental organization Conservation International and Scientific Certification Systems (SCS), an independent certification firm.
C.A.F.E Practices C.A.F.E. Practices uses independent third party organizations to verify farmers’ practices and SCS ttrain and audit verifiers.
More than 100 inspectors have been trained to become approved C.A.F.E. Practices verifiers. Starbucks will continue to work with farmers and NGOs to further refine and improve C.A.F.E. Practices. Starbucks is constantly engaging with other industry leaders to improve upon C.A.F.E. Practices to benefit farmers, their communities and the environment. We hope that our work with industry leaders will strengthen coffee farms for the future. It is Starbucks’ hope that C.A.F.E. Practices will become a model for other coffee-buying companies to adapt and integrate into their own businesses, in order to improve the lives of farmers and increase the amount of high-quality coffee available worldwide. C.A.F.E. Practices continues to garner widespread industry recognition and support. Recent awards honoring C.A.F.E. Practices include the World Environment Center’s prestigious Gold Medal Award for Corporate Achievement in Sustainable Development and the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA)’s 2005 Sustainability Award.