Nestle and Starbucks respond to illegal coffee report

by on January 22, 2007

In an article in an Indonesian newspaper, Nestlé and Starbucks both responded to the report that they had been purchasing robusta coffee beans illegally grown in a Sumatran national park in Lampung province.

Nestlé
A spokesman for Nestlé Indonesia made this statement:

“Nestlé never willingly purchases coffee from dubious sources. However, the company admits the difficulty of determining the precise origin of a coffee bag which has passed through different hands before it reaches the Nestlé buyer.”

The emphasis is mine, which precisely sums up why I continuously recommend not buying supermarket coffees.  If the companies themselves don’t know where their coffee comes from or how it is farmed, how can we know it is farmed sustainably?  Or believe them?

Nestlé also said that the coffee they purchase from Lampung (around 12,000 tons a year) goes to make instant coffee. So brands to avoid = Nescafé and Taster’s Choice.


Starbucks

A spokesperson for Starbucks’ Indonesian partner denied that the company purchased coffee from Lampung (the southern province in question), or any robusta beans from Sumatra at all.

Starbucks is listed in the report on page 50, in an appendix on recipients of tainted coffee.  The list was compiled from records of the Cooperative Industry and Trade Service of Lampung province. It’s possible these records could be forged or falsified, I suppose. There is nothing as yet on the Starbucks web site concerning this issue.

By the way, buyers of Lampung beans should know better.  It was in 2003 that published reports [1,2] revealed that 70% of Lampung’s beans came from inside or adjacent to Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park and that endangered animals were threatened from the illegal cultivation.

[1] O’Brien, T. G. and M. F. Kinnaird.  2003.  Caffeine and conservation.  Science 300:587.

[2] Kinnaird, M.F., E.W. Sanderson, T. G. O’Brien, H.T. Wibisono, and G. Woolmer. 2003. Deforestation trends in a tropical landscape and implications for endangered large mammals. Conservation Biology 17:245–257.

Hat tip to bccy.

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Revised on November 4, 2011

Posted in Corporate coffee,Retail and specialty roasters,Starbucks

Scott at Real Epicurean January 28, 2007 at 8:15 pm

I'm against the whole supermarket thing on the whole. When a company has a monopoly and wishes to maintain it by driving down prices, the farmers are forced into giving in – the monopoly ensures they have no alternative buyers.

Dean Cycon April 4, 2007 at 9:48 pm

As a coffee roaster advocating for ethics in business I actually applaud Nestles admission that it does not know where every bean comes from. The truth is, neither do Starbucks or Green Mountain. Despite all of their hype about sustainability and CAFE practices, here are some facts that those companies don't really want you to know,although they would admit them if you actually pressed past their marketing departments. Green Mountain doesn't know where fifty percent of its coffee comes from. How green is that? Starbucks markets its famous CAFE practices and nobody questions them, but the truth is that the CAFE practices only apply to a percentage of their purchases, not all of them. Further, if you understood the CAFE practices, you might not think they were such a great deal for the farmers (who have to pay Starbucks to be considered for that program-surprised?). At best, a farmer who gets all ten points under the program gets ten cents more on the price, which still leaves the price sadly below the Fair Trade price. And Starbucks sets the base price that the CAFE pennies get added to. Further, I am unaware of any farmers who have gotten all ten points anyway.

Both these companies have much to be proud of, but it doesn't serve them, the public and certainly not the farmers they claim to support by leaving clearly misleading impressions with us about the nature and the extent of their socially responsible practices. Shade the coffee, not the truth!

Michael Dupee April 6, 2007 at 10:34 am

The issue around the Lampung beans is one more example of how consumers across all industries are holding companies accountable for the sourcing of their products. This is a good development because it forces companies to examine their supply chains and be transparent about their business practices.

Last October, we at Green Mountain Coffee Roasters published our first Corporate Social Responsibility report. Our goal was to create transparency on areas where we have made progress and also be up front about the areas that we’re working to improve.

Coffee sourcing is one of the areas we’ve explored, measured and made public through this report. Beginning on page 34 of the report, we describe the history of our sourcing efforts, measure our progress to date with our different sourcing methods, and lay out our goals for the future. In our fiscal year 2006, 48% of the coffee we purchased was either Fair Trade Certified or Farm Identified, and 52% was conventionally sourced. Our goal is to expand our Fair Trade Certified coffees and reduce conventional sourcing as a percentage of our total coffee sales to 35% by our fiscal year 2008.

We encourage you to download your own copy of the CSR report or request a hard copy from our website:
http://www.greenmountaincoffee.com/ContentPage.aspx?name=SocialResponsibility

Our hope is that by publicly sharing our own strengths and challenges, we can create more opportunities to improve the way our business practices impact our world.

Mike Dupee
VP, Corporate Social Responsibility
Green Mountain Coffee Roasters

Michael Dupee April 6, 2007 at 1:06 pm

Hi all –

Please allow me to clarify my previous post about our goal with respect to Fair Trade Certified coffees.

Our goal is to increase sales of Fair Trade Certified coffees to 35% of total coffee pound sales by the end of our fiscal year 2008.

Thanks,

Mike Dupee
VP, Corporate Social Responsibility
Green Mountain Coffee Roasters

BirdBarista April 6, 2007 at 1:26 pm

I read Green Mountain's CSR report when I was first looking into their coffee, and it impressed me. It is worth looking at.

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