Starbucks and Conventional International
The article describes the partnership between Starbucks and Coventional International (CI), an environment promoting non-governmental organization. In 1990, Starbucks, a leading coffee supplier company set a mission of selling the best coffee globally as well as maintaining its corporate social responsibility (CSR). The company had a dedicated CSR department that aided in its social responsibility programs. The department had been mandated with environmental matters, among other CSR programs of the company.
The coffee industry had challenges among them being the low quality coffee produced by farmers. Additionally, the agricultural practices applied were damaging the environment. Large-scale farmers were cutting trees and intensifying the use of agrochemicals. Such agricultural practices had affected the ecosystem, for instance, the bird’s habitat on trees. However, small-scale farmers who had suffered due the high supply and low prices of coffee were producing better quality of coffee. They used traditional handpicking methods and minimal application of agrochemicals. Starbucks collaborated with CI in a pilot program at Chiapas, Mexico. The program supported the small-scale farmers in farming shade-grown coffee, which conserved trees and reduced use of chemical fertilizers. The coffee produced was of high quality and Starbucks bought it at higher prices, thus, rewarding the farmers and conserving the environment.
Coffee retailers should take the responsibility because lack of sustainability can end the businesses in future. For example, the involvement of Starbucks with farmers ensured that they were motivated and able to get profits. When businesses fail to ensure fairness, they discourage the producers and can lead to lack of the products in the market. Corporate social responsibility has become mandatory because businesses operations affect the society. As companies plan to expand their businesses, consideration for local communities is crucial to success and sustainable businesses. Sustainability is an aspect that has gained popularity following the increased demand for natural resources and environmental pollution. Therefore, coffee retailers being part of the coffee business should care about the methods used to produce the products and business practices in the industry.
Starbucks executive professes to have been wary of the collaboration with CI. The anxiety was caused by thinking about possible exposure of the weaknesses in their business in environmental issues. The private sector should collaborate with NGOs provided there are no conflicts of interests. When the two organizations come together, they can mutually work better by exchanging ideas. For, example, CI working with Starbucks in the pilot program ensured that expertise and finance were shared. Companies have their knowledge in business and NGOs could have professionals who can assist with ideas on how to carry out certain projects. Non-profit NGOs are better because they do not intend to benefit financially from partnerships. Businesses can aid such NGOs to conduct noble missions, such as innovations meant to conserve environment. In addition, the setting of standards can be done with NGOs to ensure that the goals are reachable. It creates an understanding of the problems facing businesses and setting of attainable goals. When problems are shared, the standards can be set thoughtfully and with trust. It avoids unfair criticism from both sides and setting of realistic standards. Starbucks worked with CI in the pilot program successfully and helped Starbuck to set higher standards. Working with NGOs also helps companies to be trusted and to exercise diligence in their work. Thus, the case is a good example of how NGOs can work together with private sector.
Austin, James E., and Cate, Reavis. “Starbucks and Conservation International.” Harvard Business School Case 303-055, October 2002. (Revised May 2004.)