Several New York City Starbucks exposed customers to a potentially deadly pesticide, two lawsuits filed Tuesday allege.
The first claims that the coffee chain exposed customers over the last three years to Dichlorvos, or DDVP, a toxic ingredient in Hot Shot No-Pest Strips used against recommendations in Manhattan stores. In the second, a former employee and two pest control contractors say they were retaliated against for raising concerns about the use of the strips, NBC News reported.
"New Yorkers deserve to know what they are putting in their bodies and we call upon Starbucks to explain, as we allege in the complaint, its failure to take appropriate care for its customers' well-being," Douglas H. Wigdor, who filed the first complaint in New York State Supreme Court, said in a statement reported by Gothamist.
DDVP exposure can cause loss of bladder control, weakness, nausea, trouble breathing, paralysis, coma and death, the lawsuit states, according to NBC News. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says DDVP should only be used to control pests in enclosed spaces where people are either not present or are provided with a respirator.
Hot Shot advises that its strips should not be used in restaurants or anywhere food is served. But photos included in the suit show the strips near air vents, bagels and food preparation equipment.
"Starbucks stores throughout Manhattan have for many years been permeated with a toxic pesticide called Dichlorvos, which is highly poisonous and completely unfit for use in proximity to food, beverages and people," the suit said, as NBC News reported.
Gothamist published photos included in the suit taken by former Pest Control Technician Paul D'Auria that show the strips were being used to fight "disgusting conditions," such as a buildup of flies, cockroaches, maggots and silverfish.
NYC Starbucks Used Toxic Pesticide In Losing Battle Against Maggots & Other Pests, Lawsuit Alleges… https://t.co/haLtIEeKKA— Gothamist (@Gothamist)1558468734.0
The second complaint was brought by the Filosa Graff firm in the Financial District, NY1 reported. It alleges that one employee was fired in February 2018 after raising alarm about the use of the strips. A pest control technician and their supervisor also had their contract terminated in June 2018 after the technician made "repeated reports and complaints about the foregoing risks to health and safety," the suit said, according to NBC News.
Starbucks spokesperson Katie Rodihan told Gothamist that, upon learning the strips were being "misused," the company had "directed local leadership to remove these devices from all stores." She also said an independent health expert had "confirmed the pest strips did not put anyone at a health risk," though she did not name the expert or say whether they had visited the New York stores.
In a statement reported by NY1, the company also said it does not "take action or retaliate" against employees or contractors for voicing concerns. It is not known which Manhattan locations are included in the suit.
Did Brazil's 'Dirty List' Prompt Starbucks and Nespresso to Stop Sourcing Coffee From Farm Caught With Slave-Like Conditions?
By Daniel Camargos
Eight months after slave labor was discovered at the Cedro II farm in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, Starbucks and Nestlé-controlled brand Nespresso — both of whom had quality certified the farm — said they would stop sourcing coffee there.
The decision by the two transnational companies came after the publication of the government's April "Dirty List" of employers — those caught with labor conditions analogous to slavery. The "Dirty List" is released biannually by what was previously the Ministry of Labor, now part of the Ministry of Economy, and the the first update under President Jair Bolsonaro.
The April 'Dirty List' includes 48 new employers. One of them is coffee producer Helvécio Sebastião Batista, who had been certified with Nespresso and Starbucks quality seals and used to provide coffee for both brands.
Nespresso responded: "In the light of the last report of the Ministry of Labor, we immediately suspended business with the producer in question and we will investigate the case. Farms providing coffee to the company are rigorously evaluated and inspected every year to meet the program's criteria. We will not accept otherwise and there will be no exception."
Starbucks responded, saying it will look into the incident and that it has suspended the farm from its supplier list because of the charges. The company, which boasts the world's largest chain of coffee shops, says the farm's practices previously complied with the C.A.F.E. certification seal, which follows "ethical and sustainable standards" developed in partnership with Conservation International and overseen by SCS Global Services. The next evaluation of the farm included in the "Dirty List" is expected to take place in September 2019.
A worker rakes coffee beans on a Brazilian plantation.
Marcel Gomes / Repórter Brasil
This wasn't the first time that auditors found slave labor at a Starbucks-certified coffee farm. In August of 2018, Repórter Brasil reported that 18 workers had been found in conditions similar to slavery at the Córrego das Almas farm, also known as Fartura. In September, Mongabay co-published that story.
The operation carried out by labor inspectors at the Cedro II farm in July 2018 found six employees in dire working conditions. Some were forced to work 17-hour shifts, from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., and slept in substandard unhygienic housing, according to the government inspectors who rescued them.
Cedro II farm owner and manager, Helvécio Sebastião Batista, claims the charges filed against him are unfounded. "I'll do what I have to do. I filed a petition for a writ of mandamus, and I paid no fine," Batista said regarding his intention to appeal the Ministry's decision through the judicial system. A writ of mandamus is an order seeking to remedy defects of justice.
Meanwhile, at Cedro II and other properties managed by Batista, labor inspectors have found 19 more workers in slavery-like conditions, in addition to the six that caused his property's inclusion on the "Dirty List." Those properties lacked proper toilets and had no kitchen facilities. The workers also reported working exhaustive hours, in some cases until 11 p.m., often without their mandatory weekly day off.
In addition to holding Nespresso and Starbucks seals of good practice, Batista said that his farm was certified by Rainforest Alliance, which in turn informed Repórter Brasil that it would suspend its certification.
Cases of labor conditions analogous to slavery on coffee farms are recurrent. In 2018 alone, 210 workers were found in such conditions by inspectors. The number of workers toiling in slave-like working conditions in Brazil's coffee industry is now at the highest level in 15 years, according to Ministry of Labor statistics.
More About the "Dirty List"
With its new additions, the "Dirty List" now includes 187 employers caught exploiting labor in conditions similar to slavery. According to Article 149 of Brazil's Criminal Code, four elements define contemporary slavery: forced labor (which involves restricting freedom of movement); debt bondage (captivity linked to debts, often fraudulent ones); degrading conditions (work that denies human dignity, endangering a worker's health, safety and life); or exhausting working hours (leading workers to total exhaustion as a result of extreme exploitation of labor, also endangering their health, safety and lives).
The 48 companies newly included on the April 2019 "Dirty List" were monitored between 2014 and 2018. Before being added to the list, employers have a right to defend themselves with the Ministry of Economy.
Employers whose appeals fail remain on the list for two years. When they strike deals with the government, employer names are placed on a "watch list," and they may be excluded altogether after a year if they honor their commitments.
Investors, along with public and private banks, use the "Dirty List" to conduct risk analyses. Some Brazilian and international companies choose to avoid doing business with listed firms.
This story was produced via a co-publishing partnership between Mongabay and Repórter Brasil; a version in Portuguese can be read here.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
By Daniela Penha and Roberto Cataldo, Translator
This story was produced via a co-publishing partnership between Mongabay and Repórter Brasil and can be read in Portuguese here.
At first sight, the Córrego das Almas farm in Piumhi, in rural Minas Gerais state, seems to be a model property. "No slave or forced labor is allowed," reads one of several signs that display international certifications—including one linked to the U.S. based company Starbucks corporation.
But investigators have found that laborers on the farm's coffee plantations were working under degrading conditions and living in substandard housing without sewerage or drinking water. A Ministry of Labor team inspection conducted at the site rescued 18 rural workers in conditions analogous to slavery.
Ministry of Labor investigators rescued 18 workers laboring in conditions analogous to slavery on coffee farms in the state of Minas Gerais; one of those farms held international certifications. Adere
The farm, locally known as Fartura (Portuguese for Abundance), also boasts the UTZ seal—a Netherlands-based sustainable farming certificate considered one of the most prestigious in the coffee industry. That seal of approval was suspended after the certifier was questioned by Repórter Brasil about the case.
The farm also holds the C.A.F.E. Practices certification—owned by Starbucks in partnership with SCS Global Services. After hearing of the raid, the two companies responsible for issuing the seal said they would review the farm's quality certificate. The certifiers verify commodity supply chains in order to assure ethical purchases, good labor practices and other criteria required by Starbucks and other retailers.
Evidence found at Fartura shows that the farm's operating standards were far below those expected at a certified agricultural facility. "There were lots of bats and mice. We'd buy food and the mice would eat it. Then we had to buy it again," said one of the workers rescued.
"We weren't paid for holidays, Sundays, nothing. And we worked from Monday to Saturday with no record of the hours. During the week, we would start at 6 am and only stop at 5 pm," said another former employee rescued from the farm, where workers received payment according to the amount of coffee they picked.
The employees lived in collective lodgings without drinking water. According to the inspectors, sanitation was so precarious that it put workers' health at risk. The rescued group reported that dead bats were often found in the water tanks, which had no cover. This water was used for cooking and drinking.
In addition, the inspectors collected farm reports indicating that accounts payable were rigged. "We'd harvest and they'd leave it [the beans] there to be weighed the next day. When we arrived there, the coffee was gone. And then we were humiliated: we complained and they laughed in our faces," said one of the rescued workers.
"I've always harvested coffee, and I've never been through something like that in my life. I wasn't even able to send money home," added another.
It was also reported that, for workers to cash their pay checks or to buy food, they had to pay R$ 20 for a "clandestine bus"—in the words of one laborer—to go from the farm to the nearest town. "We had to pay in order to get paid," he explained.
UTZ said the seal's audit of the farm occurred in February 2018, and the certificate was issued in April. After Repórter Brasil questioned the organization, the certification was suspended and the group said their team would look into the conditions at the farm.
"Workers' rights and wellbeing are of the utmost importance and are an integral part of our standard. We take those issues very seriously because something like that would violate the UTZ standard. Whenever we receive reliable evidence of breaches on UTZ certified farms, we take immediate action, which includes conducting a thorough investigation," the organization said in a statement.
According to Starbucks, the Fartura farm has been certified since 2016, but the firm denied having "purchased or received any coffee from this farm in recent years. It said it is starting a process of investigation to re-evaluate the seal. "We are already investigating this matter and will continue to pay very close attention to issuances from the Ministry of [Brazilian] Labor and Employment and communicate expectations to our suppliers that no farm on the list may supply coffee to Starbucks," the statement said.
SCS, a Starbucks partner on the C.A.F.E. seal, reported that inspections and audits are conducted before certifications are granted and that no signs of slave labor were detected when the process was conducted at Fartura: "Forced labor is considered a point of zero tolerance, therefore farms with forced labor would not be eligible for the status in the program."
In addition to these two seals, another sign at Fartura suggests its certification by the 4C Association of the Coffee Assurance Services (CAS), a worldwide organization. However, the indications at the farm were that this seal was still under analysis, and "the final decision on the license has not yet been made."
The discovery of slavery-like conditions on this particular farm points to flaws likely to be present elsewhere in the coffee certification process: "This is not the first or second time, and it will not be the last time a certified farm is charged with employing slave labor and violating labor rights," said Jorge Ferreira dos Santos, who heads the Coordination of Rural Employers of Minas Gerais (Articulação dos Empregadores Rurais de Minas Gerais, Adere-MG) and who accompanied the Labor Ministry inspectors. The certification system is weak and not transparent, he added, and fails at "taking workers' views and reality into account."
The Fartura Farm is currently caring for 3 million coffee trees, while also raising so, and cattle; it has 151 employees. The property is leased and managed by Fabiana Soares. In a statement, her lawyer, Amanda Costa Ferreira, claimed that the property owner learned about the inspection "with shock" since slave labor is not the company's "work philosophy."
"Our farm has been operating in the coffee market for many years and has always sought to comply with all legal requirements, that includes obtaining all certifications, licenses and awards whose requirements are extremely strict," the statement read.
Living conditions at the Córrego da Prata farm, where workers were rescued from illegal labor conditions. The farm belongs to the sister-in-law of state deputy Emidinho Madeira. Adere
Second Raid Rescues 15 Workers
Another inspection in Minas Gerais, in the town of Muzambinho, rescued 15 workers in conditions analogous to slavery from a farm owned by Maria Júlia Pereira, the sister-in-law of a state deputy, Emidinho Madeira. The workers there included a 17-year-old.
The laborers questioned reported that they were forced to buy their own equipment, so ended up owing the farm owner R$ 2,500-3,000 before even beginning harvesting. The group also told Repórter Brasil that they were required to work 90 days straight, without a single day off. Coffee harvesting only paused on rainy days, with work generally continuous from 6 am to 8 pm, one laborer said.
"And if we stopped, the boss got angry," added another. "It was exhausting."
Pereira was not charged, but the workers said that she paid severance. Her lawyer Thiago de Lima Dini, issued a statement explaining that Pereira acquired the farm at the end of 2016 and that she leased it to Elias Rodrigo de Almeida in December of the same year, "ignoring any procedures and occurrences on that property." The lawyer, who also represents Almeida, said that he "used subcontractors to hire workers" and that he is "a victim, just like other workers."
The Córrego da Prata Farm was cited for 34 violations and paid R$ 87,000 (US$ 20,000) to the workers in damages. The Fartura farm received 27 notifications and paid R$ 71,000 in severance.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.
Acting Sub Lt.niwat Thumma / EyeEm / Getty Images
The movement to ban plastic straws has gained major momentum this month, with Seattle's ban going into effect July 1 and companies like Starbucks, Hyatt and American Airlines all agreeing to phase the sucking devices out as well.
But the anti-straw push has had unintended consequences for people with disabilities, many of whom need the flexibility and heat-resistance of plastic straws to be able to dine out.
"Many people with physical disabilities such as cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis require the use of plastic straws in order to hydrate," Disability Rights Washington co-wrote in an open letter to the Seattle City Council about the ban. "Other types of straws simply do not offer the combination of strength, flexibility, and safety that plastic straws do."
A graphic has started circulating on Twitter showing exactly why other alternatives like paper (it dissolves) or metal (unsafe with hot liquids) won't work as accessible replacements.
@NPR Hi, I guess it's now my full time job to post this infographic under every NPR plastic straws story until anyo… https://t.co/9BtM9yUvtL— Destinee Siebe Hyphen (@Destinee Siebe Hyphen)1529109163.0
For many people with disabilities, who make up one in five Americans, the ban on straws is yet another example of how their needs are overlooked by the able-bodied.
"Our voices are so often left out of the conversation, and our needs so rarely considered, because disabled people are not seen as fully equal members of society," Karin Hitselberger wrote in an a piece about the straw bans for The Washington Post.
Flexible plastic straws were originally marketed for medical use, Quartz reported. Inventor Joseph B. Friedman sold the "Flex Straw" to help hospital patients drink while lying down.
But for the able-bodied, their medical usefulness has been forgotten and they have become a symbol of plastic waste.
David M. Perry speculated in Pacific Standard the current push against straws might have come from a 2015 video of a sea turtle with a plastic straw stuck up its nose, which helped straws become a stand-in for larger concerns about plastics polluting the world's oceans.
But one gruesome video doesn't make straws a numerically significant as a threat to marine life compared to plastic bags or fishing gear, Perry wrote. The oft-cited figure that the U.S. throws away 500 million straws every day was actually estimated by a nine year old boy after calling three straw companies, Perry pointed out.
However, that doesn't mean plastic straws are not part of the larger problem.
"Straws are maybe not the biggest source of either plastic pollution or disposable plastic we consume, but they're in there," senior resource specialist for the Natural Resources Defense Council Darby Hoover told NPR, adding that plastic in the oceans breaks down so much that it is hard to tell if a piece started out as a straw or a bottle.
Dune Ives of Lonely Whale, a Seattle non-profit that has partnered with both Alaska Airlines and Bacardi on anti-straw measures, said the plastic straw was chosen partly for psychological reasons, as a hook to convince people to take action and change their behavior.
"To us, it was the 'gateway plastic' to the larger, more serious plastic pollution conversation," she wrote.
Disability advocates are sympathetic to the environmental motivations behind the straw bans, they just don't want to be left out of the movement.
Hitselberger and Perry, whose son has Down syndrome and uses plastic straws, both recommend that businesses simply keep plastic straws behind the counter for anyone who asks.
"We don't have to choose between making the world more sustainable or making it more accessible," Hitselberger wrote.
Co-founder of Scottish disability rights organization One in Five Jamie Szymkowiak wrote a post for Greenpeace also calling on manufacturers to work on designing sustainable, non-plastic straws that would work for disabled customers.
"As we move to ridding our oceans, beaches and parks of unnecessary single-use plastics, disabled people shouldn't be used as a scapegoat by large corporations, or governments, unwilling to push suppliers and manufacturers to produce a better solution. Instead, we must all work together to demand an environmentally friendly solution that meets all our needs, including those of disabled people," Szymkowiak wrote.
Starbucks announced Monday it would become the largest food and beverage retailer to phase out plastic straws, aiming to complete the process at locations worldwide by 2020, CNN Money reported. The decision will remove more than one billion straws from circulation annually, the company said.
Starbucks' decision comes little over a week after a ban on plastic straws in its birth city of Seattle went into effect July 1.
"For our partners and customers, this is a significant milestone to achieve our global aspiration of sustainable coffee, served to our customers in more sustainable ways," Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson said in a statement reported by the Huffington Post.
Instead, the coffee company will roll out a recyclable strawless lid. It will still offer paper or compostable plastic straws with blended Frappuccino drinks or by customer request.
Eight million metric tons (approximately 8.2 million U.S. tons) of plastic a year end up in the world's oceans, Nicholas Mallos of the Ocean Conservancy told CNN Money. In its most recent count, the Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup found that plastic straws and stirrers were number seven on its list of the 10 most collected types of beach trash.
Starbucks isn't the first company to announce a ban on plastic straws in reaction to growing global concern over the impact of ocean plastics on marine life. Hyatt also announced Monday that, starting Sept. 1, plastic straws and drink picks would only be available upon request, CNN Money reported. Alaska Airlines will stop distributing plastic stirring straws and drink picks July 16, and McDonald's announced in March it would stop using plastic straws in UK restaurants.
Environmental groups praised the coffee chain's decision.
"Plastic straws that end up in our oceans have a devastating effect on species," director of sustainability research & development and material science at World Wildlife Fund, U.S. Erin Simon said in a statement reported by CNN Money. "We hope others will follow in [Starbucks'] footsteps."
Starbucks will begin offering its strawless plastic lids in stores in Seattle and Vancouver this fall. Eight thousand stores n the U.S. and Canada already stock the lids, the Huffington Post reported.
Starbucks Global Research & Development engineer Emily Alexander, who originally designed the lid to showcase the company's Draft Nitro drink, was thrilled to learn of her design's wider rollout.
"I am really excited to have developed something that can be part of this big transformation of going strawless," she said in a Starbucks press release. "It was this very small thing and now it is so much bigger and more impactful."
A Starbucks spokeswoman said in an email to the Huffington Post that customers seemed to like the new lids.
"We've had great feedback from customers and partners (employees) so far, and we'll continue to take customer feedback and adjust as we move along," she wrote.
She also said the company would not raise prices because of the transition, saying the investment would have a "net-neutral impact for our business by 2020."
Seattle's Ban on Plastic Straws, Utensils Begins July 1 https://t.co/JcTmgkv4Ic @NRDC @PlasticPollutes @5gyres… https://t.co/etstaRQKJS— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1529504925.0
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Maxim's said it phased out the controversial product in 2017 but undercover investigators with the wildlife conservation charity WildAid found that the eatery still offers shark fin on a secret "premium" menu, the South China Morning Post reported.
Now, activist groups are calling on the coffee giant to break its 18-year partnership with Coffee Concepts (HK) Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of Maxim's Caterers Limited.
In a letter to Starbucks executives last month, WildAid urged the company to end its relationship with Maxim's Caterers ahead of its upcoming expansion in China.
"Maxim's seemingly contradictory status as Hong Kong's largest retailer of shark fin soup casts a stain on Starbucks' reputation," the letter stated, as quoted by Hong Kong Free Press. "[We] sincerely urge Starbucks to call on its Hong Kong licensee Maxim's Caterers Limited, to halt all cruel, dirty, unsustainable, and often illegal shark fin trade with immediate effect."
Shark fin soup is mostly served in Chinese banquet menus as a symbol of prosperity and for its supposed health benefits. But the shark fin trade poses a danger to vulnerable shark species. More than 70 million sharks are killed each year and a quarter of species are threatened with extinction, according to the World Wildlife Fund.
WildAid did not appear impressed with Starbucks' response to their letter, tweeting on Tuesday "we got the brush off from Starbucks customer service about two weeks ago. Since then, nothing."
@Laughhon @Starbucks Thanks, Susie! Please read our letter to @Starbucks founder Howard Schultz and CEO Kevin Johns… https://t.co/PNxxAeQpdt— WildAid Hong Kong (@WildAid Hong Kong)1528812395.0
Gary Stokes, Asia director for Sea Shepherd Global, also spoke out against the partnership.
"The shark fin industry is not limited to just the shark fin traders, but spans from the fisherman who killed the shark all the way to the restaurants that serve shark's fin soup," he said in a statement. "By licensing Starbucks' brand to Maxim's Caterers Limited who openly sell shark's fin on their menus, Starbucks has partnered with the shark fin trade itself."
Despite the protests, Maxim's Caterers told Hong Kong Free Press on Thursday that they will continue to sell shark fin products "upon request" at their Hong Kong restaurants. They also claimed to only use shark fins from Blue Sharks—a "Lower Risk-Near Threatened" species.
"We have stringent sourcing process, and all suppliers must provide legal shark fin import documentations that met regulatory requirements. We are also the first Chinese chain restaurant to proactively conduct independent DNA testing on shark fin to ensure that the supply is from the lower risk species," they told the publication.
@ADMCF_Wildlife Here's Maxim's #SecretSharkFinMenu at Hoi Yat Heen in the Harbour Grand Hotel. https://t.co/p8AobB1vq4— WildAid Hong Kong (@WildAid Hong Kong)1528846691.0
In their press release, Sea Shepherd noted that Starbucks' environmental mission statement includes commitments such as "understanding of environmental issues and sharing information with our partners," "striving to buy, sell and use environmentally friendly products," and "encouraging all partners to share in our mission."
Stokes commented, "None of the above points in the mission statement are in line with or justify selling shark fin soup. With between 100-200 million sharks being killed annually, no business can claim that they are environmentally friendly or responsible when they sell shark fin soup."
"Starbucks needs to demand that Maxim's Caterers Limited drop shark fin from their menus across their group or cancel their license to operate Starbucks in Asia. Tarnishing the brand of Starbucks should not be an option, and Starbucks customers deserve to be informed if the mission statement has changed," Stokes concluded.
EcoWatch has reached out to Starbucks for comment.
Endangered Whale Shark Fins Found in Airlines Shipment https://t.co/4mvQ62q0rB @seashepherd #SharkFin @WWF @peta… https://t.co/ojfEdSqB3m— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1527697970.0
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"Our new initiative will mean that for every Costa takeaway cup we sell, we will aim to ensure that one is recycled," the British multinational coffeehouse touted.
Costa vowed to recycle half a billion cups a year by 2020, or "the equivalent of Costa's entire yearly sales and a fifth of the 2.5 billion takeaway coffee cups consumed as a nation each year."
Costa Coffee, the largest coffee chain in Britain with more than 2,000 stores, is making a big step in curbing the constant stream of to-go cups that end up as landfill waste. Even though these cups are mostly made of paper, these single-use items are almost never recycled or composted because they are lined with plastic.
Costa's new initiative works alongside its ongoing in-store recycling scheme, where any takeaway cup left or returned to the shop gets recycled. Costa said it will pay waste management companies a supplement of £70 ($100)—on top of the £50 they already get—for every metric ton of cups they collect. The extra costs will not be reflected in higher prices for consumers, the Guardian reported.
"It dispels the myth that coffee cups can't be recycled," Dominic Paul, managing director of Costa, told the Guardian. "By creating a market for cups as a valuable recyclable material, we are confident that we can transform the UK's ineffective and inconsistent 'binfrastructure' to ensure hundreds of millions of cups get recycled every year. 100 million cups will be recycled this year alone following our announcement, and if the nation's other coffee chains sign up, there is no reason why all takeaway cups could not be recycled by as early as 2020."
Britain throws away 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups every year, and less than 1 percent of them are recycled. The problem is much worse in the U.S., where an estimated 60 billion paper cups end up in landfills. According to Stand.earth, only 18 of 100 largest U.S. cities offer recycling for paper coffee cups.
Other major coffee companies are making efforts to go green. Last month, Starbucks, which distributes about 600 billion paper and plastic cups worldwide per year, committed to bring a fully recyclable and compostable paper cup to market in three years.
Dunkin' Donuts announced in February that it is phasing out its landfill-clogging polystyrene foam cups in favor of paper cups. The plan, the company said, will prevent nearly 1 billion foam cups from entering the waste stream each year.
Dunkin's new double-walled paper cups are made with paperboard certified to the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Standard. However, these cups are "mostly recyclable," as in their recyclability depends on whether your state or local waste management services can handle them.
Of course, every eco-minded coffee lover should know that if you purchase a beverage from a coffee shop, either sip it from an in-store mug or bring your own thermos. It's not just better for the environment, it often saves you money. For instance, Costa gives a discount of 25p (about 35 cents) to customers who bring their own reusable cups.
Dunkin' Says Bye to Foam Cups (But Bring Your Own Thermos Anyway) https://t.co/bwicuLSaie @PlasticPollutes… https://t.co/o5XnshEOuu— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1518115651.0
By Davis Harper
Since the early 1970s, Starbucks has held a special place in cupholders. Widespread infatuation with the company's caffeinated beverages has earned the coffee giant a storefront on almost every corner. With outposts in 75 countries and a whopping 13.3 million people enrolled in its loyalty rewards program, Starbucks has scorched nearly all of its closest competitors among major U.S. food brands (most of which aren't even coffee chains) in total market value.
With such reach and power comes tremendous responsibility. Starbucks touts its own corporate responsibility—claiming to be climate-change-aware and cognizant of its environmental cup-print—but how many latte-sippers know that their paper cup actually isn't recyclable and that it'll likely end up in a landfill? Might the knowledge that Starbucks's meat supply is pumped with antibiotics alter the market's appetite for the popular chicken and double-smoked bacon sandwich? Although the company prides itself on environmental awareness and progress toward sustainable products, multiple reports point to the mega-corporation's failure to live up to its own purported standards.
A recent resolution from the nonprofit corporate watchdog As You Sow slammed Starbucks for continuing to provide most customers with single-use plastic cups despite the company's Greener Cup initiative and criticized the coffee giant's role in promoting the global to-go coffee culture. As You Sow's objective is to bring to shareholders' attention Starbucks's negligence to fulfill its environmental promises. According to the resolution, Starbucks has fallen dramatically short on meeting an ambitious 2008 commitment to make 25 percent of its cups reusable by 2015. What happened? By 2011, the company had only increased its percentage of reusable cups to 1.9 percent and, as a result, reduced its 2015 goal to 5 percent reusables. Even this, apparently, proved unrealistic—Starbucks recently promised to double its current usage of reusable cups by 2022, which requires but a jump from 1.4 to 2.8 percent of all its cups.
"Starbucks has said they've been trying to promote reusable cups for years, but there's clearly been little effort made toward what should be an easy policy to meet," said Conrad MacKerron, As You Sow's senior vice president. "If getting customers to care was a high priority, they'd be doing more onsite to offer incentives," he added. "There are other creative ways to get people to bring back reusable cups, such as offering a ceramic mug for those people ordering in." MacKerron encourages consumers to keep the pressure on Starbucks by voicing their concerns at individual stores.
As You Sow's resolution also addresses the company's failure to establish a comprehensive policy to phase out its signature jumbo green plastic straws, despite the existence of the credible alternative that is paper straws. The Ocean Conservancy picked up just under half a million straws along coastlines all over the world this past year—a fraction of the total global plastic waste collected. Starbucks—which hands out more than 2 billion plastic straws a year—could be a key player in reducing that count.
For many businesses, the pressure is on to reduce plastic straw pollution. The Lonely Whale Foundation, an NGO that engages people in marine degradation issues and solutions, has already pushed the native Seattle company to participate in its Strawless in Seattle initiative, through which Seattle plans to enforce a ban on sales of all plastic straws and utensils by July 2018. This means all 300 Starbucks storefronts in the city will have to adopt alternative straws within the year. Hopefully, that momentum won't stop at Seattle city limits. "I think we're going to see increasing amounts of this break-free-from-plastic campaign to get plastic reduced globally," MacKerron said.
Cup and straw pollution, however, isn't the only snafu in Starbucks's environmental portfolio. Six food-safety and animal-rights nonprofits—Center for Food Safety, Consumers Union, Food Animals Concerns Trust, Friends of the Earth, the NRDC and U.S. PIRG Education Fund—have come out with an extensive report card grading companies according to the antibiotics present in their meat supplies. Starbucks earned a D+, which ranks the beloved chain behind the likes of McDonalds, KFC and Taco Bell. Earlier this year, Starbucks committed to sourcing antibiotics-free poultry by 2020. However, it has yet to devise a policy for its beef and pork.
Asked to comment on these two reports, a spokesperson for Starbucks responded, "Starbucks cups are some of the most recyclable in the industry, and we are proud of what we've done to make them greener. Since 2006, our hot cups have contained 10 percent post-consumer fiber—it's the first of its kind approved by the U.S. FDA. We also have offered a cup discount since 1985 and spent millions to encourage reusable mugs and tumblers since 1985." The corporation also restated its commitment to reducing antibiotics in poultry by 2020.
As a company with the influence and reach to effect real progress through its environmental commitments, Starbucks arguably has a responsibility to develop and maintain the most sustainable practices it can afford. Still, at least part of the burden falls on consumers to keep the corporation honest. So next time you need a Starbucks fix, be sure to put in a plug for more reusable, and healthy, options.
Reposted with permission from our media associate SIERRA Magazine.
By Raina Lang
Editor's note: Sept. 29 marks National Coffee Day in the U.S. Throughout September, Human Nature is publishing a series of reports on the Sustainable Coffee Challenge, a coalition working to make coffee the world's first sustainable agricultural product. This post is the second in the series.
This story follows Conservation International's (CI) director of sustainable coffee markets, Raina Lang, to Guatemala, with Mattea Fleischner, manager on Starbucks' global social impact team. They were in the country to see how coffee trees are grown and delivered to farmers as part of the "One Tree for Every Bag" commitment, which has raised enough funds to plant more than 30 million new coffee trees. The commitment is part of a nearly 20-year partnership between CI and Starbucks.
As we approached the Huehuetenango nursery, crossing a one-lane bridge suspended over the Valparaiso River, I realized just how complex coffee tree deliveries could be. This year, the nursery is supplying half a million seedlings to farmers in the region as part of Starbucks commitment. As a partner in this effort, CI works with Starbucks and ECOM, the administrator of the nurseries, to ensure that healthy, high-quality coffee leaf-rust-resistant trees are distributed and that farmers understand and respect key environmental and social safeguards associated with the program.
The bridge leading to the coffee nursery. Conservation International / Raina Lang
I was in Guatemala to observe the deliveries of coffee trees to C.A.F.E. Practice farmers—those who comply with a set of social, environmental and economic best practices defined as requirements to enter the Starbucks supply chain. I also visited a few farms to see where and how trees were being planted. Tracking how nurseries deliver rust-resistant coffee plants to farmers—and monitoring the quality of the trees they're delivering—is one critical step in monitoring designed to ensure healthy, sustainable coffee farms and thriving farmers.
Coffee farmers rely on productive and resilient trees to maintain their place as growers in a competitive market—and to sustain their livelihoods. Due to threats such as aging trees, climate change and significant pest and disease outbreaks in recent decades, farmers in many places are in desperate need of support. According to a 2015 study, there is a need to replant an estimated 22,000 square kilometers (13,600 square miles) globally, which translates to roughly 7 billion-10 billion coffee trees. To address this need—and build on the success of the One Tree for Every Bag program—Starbucks has committed to quadruple its commitment by providing 100 million healthy coffee trees to farmers by 2025.
Healthy coffee trees in Guatemala. Conservation International / Raina Lang
This particular nursery in La Libertad—one of 12 nurseries across Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico servicing the program—has the capacity to distribute 10,000 trees a day. But there's a challenge: The bridge connecting trees to farmers can only be used by lightweight vehicles. When the river swells during rainy season, larger trucks that could transport greater quantities of trees can't make it to the nursery, resulting in a dance of pick-up trucks entering and exiting the nursery.
When we made it to the nursery at 7 a.m., there were already two trucks waiting to be loaded. Nursery workers move the trees to the truck bed using a plastic crate, fitting roughly 700 to 1,000 coffee trees into the truck bed. The whole loading process took around 45 minutes per truck. To ensure that the trees are accounted for and tracked, there is an intricate process in place to document and record the quantity of trees, license plate, driver and date in a central registrar. Using this method, Starbucks and their local suppliers can account for the nearly 21 million coffee trees that have been distributed to C.A.F.E. Practices farmers since 2016.
Coffee trees are loaded onto truck for delivery to farmers as part of Starbucks program. Starbucks
That afternoon—just prior to a tropical downpour common in the tropics during rainy season—we visited a farm that had received seedlings from the program. Gustavo Alfaro is a fourth-generation farmer whose property was hit by coffee leaf rust several years back, just when he was taking it over from his father. Since taking ownership, he has made a concerted approach to increase shade cover in and around the coffee area. The trees and native vegetation in the zone regulate the climate across the farm, he explained, which can help mitigate future rust outbreaks. As we chatted, each newly delivered seedling was carried carefully to the area using a wooden backpack, then planted under a canopy of shade.
Backpack used to transport new seedlings into the coffee area for planting. Conservation International / Raina Lang
As we stood under the conacaste trees watching the seedlings being planted, we could hear the distinct calls of a tinamu chico, a flightless bird that roams the coffee fields in this region. In the face of climate change, those healthy, disease-resistant seedlings help Gustavo further build resilience on his farm.
Farmers receive their trees. Starbucks
But what if we could do more to help farmers like Gustavo adapt to a changing climate? Dozens of organizations in the Sustainable Coffee Challenge—including Starbucks—have joined forces to accelerate the responsible renovation and rehabilitation of coffee farms, committing to provide 1 billion healthy and productive trees worldwide. Together, the group is working to increase collective investment to ensure a healthy future for coffee and to make it possible for every coffee farmer to make renovation and rehabilitation a regular part of doing business.
Learn more about the Challenge and the commitments of partner organizations here.
Raina Lang is Conservation International's director of sustainable coffee markets.
More than 365 businesses and investors, from more than a dozen Fortune 500 firms to small, family-owned businesses across more than 35 states, sent a strong message today to President Barack Obama, President-elect Donald Trump and other elected U.S. and global leaders, reaffirming their support for the historic Paris climate agreement and the need to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy at home and around the world.
"Implementing the Paris climate agreement will enable and encourage businesses and investors to turn the billions of dollars in existing low-carbon investments into the trillions of dollars the world needs to bring clean energy prosperity to all," wrote the powerful business group, in a statement of support at a press conference at the COP22 climate negotiations in Marrakech, Morocco. "Failure to build a low-carbon economy puts American prosperity at risk."
Among the diverse and iconic large and small U.S. businesses signing the statement are DuPont, Gap Inc., General Mills, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Hilton, HP Inc., Kellogg Company, Levi Strauss & Co., L'Oreal USA, NIKE, Mars Incorporated, Schneider Electric, Starbucks, VF Corporation and Unilever.
"Now more than ever, Levi Strauss & Co. believes it is important to reaffirm our commitment to address climate change by supporting the Paris climate agreement," Michael Kobori, vice president of sustainability at Levi Strauss & Co., said. "Building an energy-efficient economy in the U.S., powered by low-carbon energy will ensure our nation's competitiveness and position U.S. companies as leaders in the global market—all while doing the right thing for our planet."
The U.S., China, India, Brazil, European Union and more than 100 other nations representing more than three-fourths of global emissions formally ratified or joined the agreement, and it entered into legal force on Nov. 4. The agreement is the first-ever global, legally binding framework to tackle climate change.
It's Official: Paris Agreement Becomes International Law https://t.co/0JubgSBBM0 @zerocarbonworld @Climate_Rescue— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1478337908.0
In the statement, the large and small businesses pledged to do their part, in their own operations and beyond, to realize the Paris climate agreement's commitment of a global economy that limits global temperature rise to well below two-degrees Celsius.
They are calling on elected U.S. leaders to strongly support:
- Continuation of low-carbon policies in order to allow the U.S. to meet or exceed its promised national commitments.
- Investment in the low-carbon economy at home and abroad in order to give financial decision-makers clarity and boost investor confidence.
- Continued U.S. participation in the Paris climate agreement in order to provide the long-term direction needed to limit global warming.
"The enormous momentum generated by the business and investment community to address climate change cannot be reversed and cannot be ignored by the Trump administration. That train has left the station and to stand in its way is folly," Matt Patsky, CEO of Trillium Asset Management, said.
Amy Goodman: What Would It Take for #Trump to Pull Out of Paris #Climate Deal? https://t.co/sk9D34sfi3 @democracynow @ClimateNexus @NRDC— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1479240652.0
"Nevertheless, we know that now is the time to remind the incoming administration that virtually every company in the Fortune 500 and over $100 trillion in investor assets has acknowledged the reality of climate change and the need to address it head on," Patsky concluded.
The U.S. is the world's leading consumer of coffee, with Americans drinking some 400 million cups of coffee each day. But, drinking coffee can be detrimental to people and the planet, and the industry says it will cost $4 billion and take decades to make the entire sector sustainable.
But if you still want enjoy your cup of joe and be conscious of your impact on the Earth, here's a list of the 10 most sustainable coffee roasters in the U.S.
The list compiled by coffee writer Jimmy Sherfey comprises "10 U.S. roasters and retailers that are overcoming obstacles to curb carbon emissions, offset energy use, cut down on waste and help farmers mitigate the existing damages associated with climate change." They range from the nationally-distributed Peet's Coffee, which roasts all of its coffee in the first LEED Gold certified roasting facility in the U.S., to smaller producers such as Larry's Coffee in Raleigh, North Carolina. Founder Larry Larson is a Seattle expat who converted a school bus, used for deliveries, to run on used vegetable oil.
Coffee plants naturally prefer shade, as they evolved in the understory of the African jungle. But more and more, coffee is being grown in direct sun on monoculture plantations that resemble cornfields. Shade-grown coffee slipped from 43 percent of the world's farms in 1996 to just 24 percent in 2010. Three-fourths of the coffee farmland in Brazil and Vietnam has no shade tree cover at all. Much of their production is cheaper, robusta beans that are generally used for instant coffee and low-price supermarket brands.
The coffee you choose may be harmful to your health, to the environment or to the growers themselves. Much coffee is grown using pesticides, which has been shown to be detrimental to coffee farmers. Also, pesticides used to combat the coffee cherry borer and coffee rust can remain in the environment.
On large coffee plantations, workers often toil in harsh conditions for subsistence wages. Children as young as six or eight work the fields, and just 13 percent of coffee workers in Guatemala have completed primary education. In contrast to these big plantations, small farmers generally cultivate less than seven acres of land and often struggle to earn more than the cost of production. Fair Trade coffee may or may not help: only the label "Fair Trade Certified" ensures that farmers receive a fair price for their coffee.
Shade grown coffee in NicaraguaFlickr
So shade-grown, organically grown and Fair Trade Certified coffees are the way to go —if you can find them. In a recent trip to my local supermarket, however, I could find no coffee with the Fair Trade Certified label.
In order to research this story, I went to my local coffee shop and asked for a cup of sustainable coffee. The clerk wasn't taken aback by my requests. He told me that their coffee is supplied by Wicked Joe, which it turns out uses organic, Fair Trade Certified, shade grown beans. Their coffee is also bird-friendly. It meets the rigorous Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center criteria for shade tree farms, which includes 100 percent certified organic beans and the use of native shade trees for cover.
Many of these smaller roasters sell locally and online. But what about the ubiquitous Starbucks? On its website, the coffee giant states, "We're committed to ethically sourcing and roasting the highest-quality arabica coffee in the world."
[email protected] Blasts @Starbucks for Supporting #Monsanto and #GMOs in Rock Anthem http://t.co/5QOBABLMO2 @dhlovelife ⊕http://t.co/UC4AuwqZkr— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1433263699.0
Last year, they announced that 99 percent of their coffee had been ethically produced. Working with Conservation International, they've developed their own set of standards related to farmers' working conditions, reduced agrochemical use and improved economic transparency. But although the company states that it is one of the largest buyers of Fair Trade Certified coffee, you might have to specifically ask your barista for it. A search for "fair trade coffee" on the Starbucks website yields just two results, one for a whole bean Italian roast and one for portion packs.
McDonald's announced last week that it committed to purchasing all of its coffee from sustainable sources by 2020. The fast food retailer is also partnering with Conservation International. McDonald's buys arabica coffee from Colombia, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Brazil, Peru and El Salvador, along with some espresso beans from Indonesia.
11 Unexpected #Health Benefits of Drinking Your Morning Joe https://t.co/YdODzw8Tf5 #tips #coffee https://t.co/qiPLse85tE— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1462395614.0
For all the Starbucks customers who have been asking for almond milk as a non-dairy option, your voice has been heard. Almond milk is coming to more than 4,600 U.S. Starbucks stores starting Sept. 6.
Almond milk will become Starbucks third non-dairy offering. Soy milk was introduced in 2004, followed by coconut milk in 2015.
Customer demand for almond milk—or "almondmilk" as Starbucks calls it—was by far the most popular request on My Starbucks Idea, a platform for crowdsourcing customer and barista suggestions, where thousands of ideas are submitted and voted on each year.
"More than half (58 percent) of all U.S. adults consume non-dairy milk, and almondmilk is the most popular option with 60 percent of the non-dairy market, according to Mintel Data, which tracks grocery shopping habits," Starbucks said in a press release.
Wondering what other ingredients will be added to the almond milk?
According to Starbucks, their "almondmilk" has "light almond notes without any added flavoring. An 8-ounce serving has just 3 grams of sugar, compared with 12-13 grams of naturally occurring sugar in 2 percent dairy milk. It can be used in any handcrafted Starbucks beverage for an additional 60 cent charge."
Yoke Wong, manager on Starbucks beverage R&D team, said, "We created our own almondmilk recipe to complement our hot, iced and Frappuccino blended beverages. It was designed so that when steamed, it creates a rich foam for hot beverages and is delicious and creamy when served in cold beverages."
Clearly, many Starbucks customers are exciting about this new announcement. Here are a few celebratory tweets:
Important news 🚨 @Starbucks will finally have almond milk starting next month 🙌 https://t.co/bhSAFnrqKk https://t.co/OOmjwLaSIk— PETA (@PETA)1470763809.0
i'm waaaay too excited that @Starbucks is adding #almondmilk to their menu #ItsAboutTime— Whitney Kelly (@Whitney Kelly)1470763829.0
Starbucks is finally adding almond milk to its menu!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!— Man Repeller (@Man Repeller)1470761522.0
Adding non-dairy alternatives to their menu isn't the only idea Starbucks is implementing. As EcoWatch reported last month, the world's largest coffee chain is testing recyclable coffee cups in UK stores.
4 Billion Starbucks Cups Thrown Away Each Year ... Will Recyclable Cup Reduce This Waste? - EcoWatch https://t.co/ZpBRPcPnSq @TerraCycle— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1469318707.0