Why You Should (Not) Boycott Starbucks


I am sure almost everyone in the United States and perhaps the rest of the worlds is aware of the red cup scandal. As usual when the holiday season rolls around, the place of religion in public celebration becomes spotlighted. Starbucks releasing a non-religious holiday cup indicates an understanding of other religious groups, and unsurprisingly some “extremists” have taken this to symbolize an attack on Christianity and that “Starbucks hates Jesus”.

Although this protest has gained a lot of traction in the news and on social media, the general feeling is of disbelief that such an insignificant issue can garner so much attention, even resulting in the #ItsJustACup tag on Twitter. I have to say when first reading about the “call to action” a feeling of frustration over took me. Partly because there are so many more important issues in the world but also that the population would boycott Starbucks because of their cup aesthetic rather than their unethical or shady business principles. The concept of this for this post was born. I was going to write an exposé, showing the readers an undeniable reason to abandon Starbucks.

Starting my research I thought I was going to find piles of evidence supporting my dishonorable image of the company. As one does, I started my search by typing “Is Starbucks a bad company” into the magical eight-ball that Google is. I was expecting a deluge of articles and news reports about the unethical and big business minded practices of the company. I might be a little biased; I work for a small locally run coffee shop with fair trade organic coffee (Sonoma County prides itself on local coffee). Yet knowing that Starbucks has over 21,000 stores in more than 60 countries made me suspicious.

As I scoured more and more articles in search of evidence I came to realize the truth. Starbucks is a really decent company. I’ll admit some of the business jargon went over my head by from an environmental and employee standpoint they could not do much better.


I remembered hearing that Starbucks was extremely immoral in the sourcing of their coffee plants, so that was the first aspect of the business I focused on. I found that instead of underpaying coffee farmers in Central and South America or Africa like I’d believed, the company started an organization called C.A.F.E (Coffee and Farmer Equality) Practices that guarantees the supply of high quality and ethically sourced coffee and cocoa. It evaluates the social, economic, and environmental aspects of the production to address the needs of all participants in the supply chain. Starbucks also recently announced that 99% of all coffee in their stores is ethically sourced, meaning that their beans passed the evaluation of third-party organizations. They are currently the leading café chain for sustainable sourcing of coffee.

Now my environmental prejudice was disproved, I turned my search to what kind of employer Starbucks is. I did not think that with over 150,000 employees they would be able to provide appropriate wages and health benefits. Again I was mistaken. Annually Starbucks spends more on employee health care than on coffee beans. A survey found that Starbucks barista’s rated the company 3.8 out of five, based on culture and values, work/life balance, senior management, compensation and benefits, and career opportunities, higher than other chains like Pete’s. The only complaint I saw was about erratic scheduling which, when the employee addressed her issues to the company, was changed to accommodate her.

Another incredible opportunity that the corporation offers is to pay the tuition for both full and part time workers to Arizona State University. Although some of the details were vague it appears that Starbucks will pay full tuition for juniors and seniors and partial for freshmen and sophomores.

The final piece proving to me that Starbucks might just be a pretty cool company was the discovery of their plan to introduce an “evening menu”. Soon a Starbucks near you will not only be able to make you a tasty cappuccino but can provide a beautiful glass of Cabernet. The evening menu will include appetizers along with beer and wine.

I think I might be spending a lot more time in Starbucks now, what about you?

-Elsie

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A Mused Blog | A Northern California Sonoma County Blog