In Starbucks we trust: human rights and the illusion of the ethical cup of coffee

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Sleiman, Charlaine
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Starbucks is renowned globally for its high quality coffee selection and its reputation as a company that cares, and is very generous with its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Initiatives. However, Starbucks only sells a minimal amount of Fairtrade International certified coffee, yet markets its coffee as though it is entirely sustainably sourced. This work attempts to answer the following, two-part question: In the business world, have human rights become a commodity, just a bi-product of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) that is used to sell other products? Specifically, are the human rights of Starbucks farmers being commodified to sell Starbucks coffee? This work offers a marketing analysis of Starbucks’ marketing, as well as the marketing of its competitors. The analysis will be flanked by two literature reviews. The first section will examine literature regarding the evolution of the concept of Fair Trade, and the final section will serve as discussion to examine the philosophical and legal approaches to Fair Trade.The findings of this analysis prove the following: Firstly, the Fair Trade concept needs to be reinforced with a new, more holistic approach to Fair Trade that encompasses issues such as gender. Secondly, Starbucks evocative imagery of its farmers that is used in its marketing is consequently objectifying these farmers and ensuring that they will always be perceived as part of the global poor, and Fair Trade is misconstrued as charity rather than simply trade. Finally, more work needs to be done on the part of international organizations such as the World Trade Organization (WTO). Organizations such as the WTO need to adopt a more human rights based approach to trade implement more legally binding regulations to ensure the protection of the socio-economic rights of these farmers. There needs to be a consensus that Fair Trade is not a temporary niche market, but rather a permanent solution to ‘unfair trade.’
Second semester University: Queen's University, Belfast.
corporate responsibility, fair trade, corporate responsibility