Message from Michelle Burns: Understanding Starbucks commitment to ethically sourced coffee


Today you may have seen reporting from NBC News and other media calling into question our commitment to ethical and responsible coffee sourcing. Coverage includes mention of a lawsuit that centers on claims of false advertising about our goal to source and verify 100% of Starbucks coffee through C.A.F.E. Practices.

Please know we take these allegations very seriously, and plan to aggressively defend against claims that Starbucks has misrepresented our ethical sourcing commitments to customers.

For me, and I’m sure for many partners, this feels personal. And it is. Because our ethical sourcing program is best-in-class. And because the tradition of great coffee is what has set us apart for more than 50 years. Our commitment and our responsibility to build a more sustainable, equitable, and resilient future for coffee is unwavering.

Transparency is essential to fulfilling our mission, upholding our promises, and living our values. In that spirit, here are the facts about Coffee and Farmer Equity (C.A.F.E.) Practices, which was one of the industry’s first set of ethical sourcing standards when it launched in 2004 and remains the cornerstone of our holistic work to ensure the long-term supply of high-quality coffee.

  • Developed in collaboration with Conservation International, C.A.F.E. Practices is a verification program, not a one-time certification system.
  • To maintain an active status in the program, each supply chain is required to undergo reverification regularly with frequency dictated by their performance in the program and the size of the farm.
  • Starbucks relies on SCS Global Services (SCS) to ensure the quality and integrity of the third-party auditing for C.A.F.E. Practices. Evaluation criteria are open-sourced and publicly available, consisting of more than 200 indicators across four criteria areas: economic transparency, social responsibility, environmental leadership and quality.
  • We believe that a focus on scrutiny for continuous improvement is the right approach to promote positive change amongst suppliers and farms and ensure a future for everyone involved in coffee.
  • In instances where Starbucks is notified of alleged violations, we take immediate action. We conduct an investigation that may lead to suspending the commercial relationship with a farm, or asking the farm to create a plan describing how the issue will be corrected. We remain committed to meeting the expectations detailed in our Global Human Rights Statement.

Through two decades of auditing farms, evaluating results, and strengthening our auditing standards and practices to be among the most stringent in the industry, we’ve gained valuable insights into what support coffee farmers need.

We will continue to maintain our presence in regions where we source coffee across the globe – even when it’s hard – because it is the right thing to do. We believe Starbucks presence in these communities must be a force of good.

We will share more as we continue to manage and learn more about this situation.

Proud to be your partner,

Michelle Burns
evp of global coffee, social impact & sustainability