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October 12, 2005


green LA girl

Wait wait -- I didn't do this alone -- This was a team effort, with Al of City Hippy in London -- I just happen to be the US branch of the challenge.

Thanks for letting other bloggers know about the Challenge. Yes, what Starbucks promises is quite admirable, as you described -- We just wanna find out if those promises are being carried out --

City Hippy

Hey Joel

Nice piece...despite the ommission of moi of course ;).

Treehugger, MSNBC's Clicked Blog and the Guardian News Link Log have now mentioned the challenge.

It certainly seems to be gathering pace and for Starbucks this is nothing but a good opportunity to engage with customers...which seems to be what they are considering.

So far they have only communicated with us by email but I suspect as the challenge gets bigger they may consider more involvement. After all they have nothing to hide and are being very cool about their imperfections.

My feeling is that what consumers do not like is when companies claim there is no problem. Consumers love being taken seriously. Starbucks may well have got that point. Whilst being imperfect has an obvious downside getting the above point helps to neutralise it.

They are a good example of how a large corporation should deal with concerned consumers.



City Hippy

Incidentally, the other interesting thing this challenge makes clear is that blogging and other web2.0 apps makes it very easy for consumers to engage with other consumers regardless of location about companies, especially trans-national companies.

Of course companies can either be merely the subject of that conversation or they can be a part of that conversation as Starbucks seem to be considering.

I suspect that this represents a new era of devolved global consumer activism.

And to be honest, speaking for City Hippy, we have other challenges lined up. Watch this space.

The goal? To affect change within companies. Simple really.



Mitra Ardron

The challenge I would pose is for Starbucks to clean up the advertising as well - in Australia I've seen posters that say something like "Sit down to a Fair Trade cup of Coffee", which led my companion to think she was drinking Fair Trade coffee, rather than having to ask for it.

Also - I'd challenge Starbucks, if they are only going to buy part of their coffee fairly, to at least use signage on the menu that invites people to ask for it.

- Mitra

City Hippy

Hi Joel and Mitra

Mitra...I agree...Starbucks need to ensure they are not taking unfair advantage of green marketing without delivering. I think that is possibly what got me thinking about all this in the first place. I have added your comment to the feed so Starbucks are made aware of it.

Joel...I just wrote a post called Activism 2.0 that you might be interested in. All about how consumer power is devolving and globalising and what that means for business.

You can read it here.

Namaste to you both



such a great and tramandous knowledge keep it up

Rodney North

(full disclosure: I work in marketing with a Fair Trade coffee cooperative)

Now that about nine months have passed it would be interesting to check in again with GreenLAGirl and City Hippie and see how the Starbucks Challenge played out.
And one reason I suggest this is that this past week Starbucks ran three prominent full-page, color ads in the NY Times - all of the feel-good variety, and none actually selling anything - including one with the big headline "OWNED AND OPERATED BY HUMAN BEINGS".
As a fellow marketer, that seemed like an ad from a business that is feeling at least a little defensive and, more specifically, thinks it needs to promote a warmer, fuzzier, human-er image. So, could this old-fashion, controlled (and expensive) form of image maintanance tell us anything about how the company's customer/public communications are going on other, more chaotic fronts, such as the blogosphere?

Deborah Grove

Actually I believe something else about starbucks' policy is significant for consumers to read about. Starbucks buys only the finest coffee - literally only that grown above xx thousand feet - I forgot the exact height, leaving all the other coffee growers literally in the dust. It seems to me that the coffee growers with the less desirable land should be part of the population that Starbucks wants to support in their Fair Trade policy. But they are left out of the policy because Starbucks doesn't buy the "lesser" quality. It is kind of like DeBeers saying we pay fair prices to miners who bring us good diamonds but we don't have a relationship with the other 90%. In my opinion this should be redressed by a more inclusive policy and Starbucks is just the company to do so!

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