Tuesday, March 21, 2006

why i hate starbucks (even though i sheepishly confess to having purchased their coffee occasionally)

Yes yes, we've all read Naomi Klein's No Logo in which she describes how Starbucks saturates markets (note that there are often 2 or more stores within close proximity) and is happy to make a loss on individual stores as long they squeeze out competitors and their overall profit goes up in the slightly longer term. What really shits me just now though is their rank hypocrisy on environmental matters.

Starbucks is huge in the upscale areas of manila. Non-instant coffee culture is relatively new here and it began with the big chains -- starbucks, seattle's best etc - and they dominate the market here bigtime. So, when in Manila, one sees many Starbucks (and i have to confess that, occasionally, i've bought their damn coffee -- I won't try and justify it, though will say it's usually a matter of choosing between one of a number of chains or nothing at all, and I needed the damn coffee).

Anyway - the environmental stuff. I have no idea how many disposable items -- cups, stirrers, sugar packets, bags, plastic sandwich containers, napkins and so on and on and on -- any one store goes through each day, but it'd be a pretty phenomenal amount. Multiply that by the number of stores worldwide...it's obscene. I couldn't find the global number of stores, but as of 1 week ago, there were more than 7,500 in the US alone. AND THE FUCKERS HAVE THE GALL TO CLAIM THEY ARE "committed to contributing positively to the environment." (There's that classic weasel word, "committed" -- anyone can say they're commited to a cause; it doesn't mean they're actually doing anything about it.)

A couple of paragraphs from the Starbucks "Environmental Affairs" web page:

Starbucks is committed to minimizing our environmental impacts throughout our entire supply chain, from coffee bean to coffee cup. It’s one of our guiding principles and it’s part of the way we conduct business. Starbucks approach to minimizing our environmental footprint is guided by our environmental mission statement, which was adopted in 1992.

From Bean to Cup Starbucks environmental efforts are visible throughout our supply chain, from working with farmers to preserving the natural environment in places where coffee is grown to recycling coffee grounds into nutrient-rich soil amendment.

They're also

"...committed to increasing the amount of recycling in all our company-operated stores..."

And they as good as admit that they're not REALLY doing all that much...sure we'd like to, but it's out of our hands! Oh well!

"...but it comes with certain challenges. For one, we don’t oversee waste management in all of our company-operated stores and must rely on our various landlords to place a high priority on recycling, as well as track their efforts. In addition, some of our stores are located in communities where commercial recycling facilities are not available. Nevertheless, we strive to increase the number of company-operated stores that participate in a recycling program."

How well are they actually doing?

"We report our performance in this area as the number of company-operated stores where waste management is controlled by Starbucks, and that have recycling programs. In 2003, Starbucks managed the waste and recycling at 1,544 of our stores, of which 61% have a recycling program."

I think that means that 61% of 1,544 (942) stores where waste management is controlled by Starbucks have recycling projects -- which raises at least 2 questions:

  1. What about the other 602 stores -- why don't they have recycling projects?
  2. What about the thousands of stores where waste management is not controlled by Starbucks?

Here's an idea if they want to minimize their bloody environmental footprint: stop serving EVERYTHING in disposable containers, regardless of whether the customer is dining in or taking away. In this context, the PR fluff on the Starbucks website is truly sickening. But as long as they can market the recycled nature of their cardboard coffee-cup holders (and who can drink coffee without them??), their environmental credentials must be pretty damn sound.


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