The Grinch stealing ornaments off the Starbucks Christmas coffee cups…Starbucks fans hashtagging protests over the new cups…Counter-protestors telling hashtaggers to feed the hungry and homeless.
All of the hoop-la about the new Starbucks Christmas coffee (which seems to be mostly generated through Facebook buzz and memes) conceals an important struggle for justice behind the scenes.
Social Justice in a Cup
A critical part of the human rights struggle behind coffee is providing coffee growers, who are often poor, a fair price for their coffee so that mercenaries do not cheat them out of their produce. But what does “fair trade coffee” mean? Here is a helpful definition. Along with that, here is a list of Fair Trade-certified coffee products.
Now, do any of the popular brands of ground or whole bean coffee meet the fair trade definition? Interestingly, I tried a little experiment. Going to check out the local chain store coffee section (yes, it was a Wal-Mart), I discovered that the major Fair Trade brand-name had been dropped from their supply. The only two brands of coffee which stood out at all were Caribou and Starbucks. Caribou refers to their paying coffee farmers a “sustainable wage” and Starbucks talked about social responsibility. Neither of these companies is “fair trade”-certified, however. Caribou seems to be the closest with its affiliation with the Rainforest Alliance, although it may be losing traction with some of its fans who believe in paying farmers equitably. By contrast, Starbucks buys only anywhere from 3% to 9% of its coffee from the Fair Trade certified importers, depending on their history, and was rather secretive when an investigative journalist wanted to meet the farmers whose coffee was being purchased by Starbucks. Another interesting factoid: Dunkin’ Donuts doesn’t spend a lot of money advertising how it acquires its coffee beans equitably, even though it has had stricter standards for paying its farmers than both Caribou and Starbucks. Think about it: both of these companies have been spending monies advertising their social responsibility for years, while Dunkin’ Donuts has been practicing it without tooting their horn.
So, instead of worrying about what’s on the outside of the cup, let’s take a look at the inside. It even seems that Jesus had some words about being too concerned with what’s on the outside of the cup (Mat. 23:25).
Next month, when my wife gives me another “guest blog” for the week, I may do a follow-up and call the offices of some local coffee products to see if they are “for” or “against” Fair Trade certification and whether they are already buying the coffee from responsible importers who ensure that farmers of java can feed their families with their wages. Perhaps they are already working toward equitable solutions, just not marketing themselves as aggressively as Starbucks or Caribou.
On a different note, this week I have been wrapping up audio narration of a really cool book about two people who are unexpectedly thrown into a life-or-death struggle for survival after their plane crashes. It’s called Survival at Starvation Lake and I can’t wait until the audio book is released, although I don’t have a link yet from Audible to share. You can, however, visit our Facebook page to see some of my previously published fiction. Eventually, I want to go in a direction more of Christian apologetics with Locust and Honey. Kelly and I are getting there, step-by-step. In a future blog, I’ll share a really interesting book that I’ve been working on converting to audio that involves a dialogue between the Christian and the Hindu world-views.
–Adam [guest blogger]