Several New York City Starbucks exposed customers to a potentially deadly pesticide, two lawsuits filed Tuesday allege.
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.
A worker rakes coffee beans on a Brazilian plantation.
Marcel Gomes / Repórter Brasil<p>This wasn't the first time that auditors found slave labor at a Starbucks-certified coffee farm. In August of 2018, <a href="https://reporterbrasil.org.br/2018/08/fazenda-de-cafe-certificada-pela-starbucks-e-flagrada-com-trabalho-escravo/" target="_blank">Repórter Brasil</a> 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 <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/slave-labor-starbucks-certified-brazil-coffee-plantation-2606260085.html">story</a>.</p><p>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.</p><p>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.</p><p>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.</p><p>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.</p><p>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.</p>
More About the "Dirty List"<p>With its new additions, the "<a href="https://reporterbrasil.org.br/tags/lista-suja/" target="_blank">Dirty List</a>" 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).</p><p>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.</p><p>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.</p><p>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.</p>
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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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.