September 7, 2008
Pledge to Break the Bottled Water Habit.
Posted by Chris O’Brien
In the past decade, bottled water has become a convenience most Americans have come to take for granted. Homebrewers often use it in place of water from the tap. Likewise, coffee connoisseurs are reaching for the bottled stuff in attempts to brew great coffee at home.
Fact is, water is the biggest ingredient in both beer and coffee, so it makes sense to pay attention to its quality. But did you know that roughly half of bottled water is just tap water put in a bottle? And furthermore, that the health and safety regulations governing tap water are far more effective than those in place for bottled water – bottled water often is untested whereas there are free annual water quality reports available for all municipal tap water systems?
What’s more is that bottled water is an astounding 750-2,700 times more expensive than tap water.
Take a look at the new, free Responsible Purchasing Guide to Bottled Water Alternatives. Then take the Center for a New American Dream’s Pledge to Break the Bottled Water Habit.
August 18, 2008
Posted by Chris O’Brien.
Speaking as a researcher and writer, it is a great joy to find a resource as helpful as the Fair Trade Institute library of publications on fair trade. The count as of today was 268 entries. Each and every one is a book, article or another type of publication that addresses issues directly related to fair trade.
Each entry includes a brief summary of the publication, making it a veritable gold mine for researchers like me trying to save time and find the reference materials most salient to my topic. Major shout outs to the folks at the Fair Trade Institute and the Fair Trade Resource Network for collaborating and putting this site together.
August 1, 2008
Posted by Chris O’Brien
The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is telling consumers to turn up the heat on Starbucks and pressure them to take Fair Trade more seriously.
According to OCA, many customers mistakenly assume that all Starbucks coffee is fair traded, but in fact just 6% of the company’s coffee is certified Fair Trade.
OCA is asks consumer activists to take these steps:
1) Sign OCA’s 2008 petition to Starbucks demanding that all espresso drinks be both 100% certified Organic and Fair Trade.
2) Make a free call to Starbucks’ Customer Service line and let them know how you feel. (800) 235-2883. Click here for a sample script.
3) Sound off on My Starbucks Idea, Starbucks’ public forum. We have an idea for you Starbucks, its called Fair Trade!
4) Find a non-corporate café near you using the Delocator.
Is the “all Fair Trade espresso” demand impractical or too idealistic? Not really. Dunkin’ Donuts, the world’s largest coffee and baked goods retailer, already does just that. Even McDonald’s sells all Fair Trade coffee in their New England stores and in the U.K.
So what’s up Starbucks? Why not empower farmers by supporting a minimum price per pound and buying from democratic cooperatives?
July 18, 2008
Tune in next Tuesday, Noon to 1pm Central time, to the Open Journal on Houston’s Pacifica radio affiliate KPFT when host Tim O’Brien (that’s my bro) interviews Chris O’Brien (that’s me) about responsible purchasing, fair trade, and sweatfree apparel.
Tim has been waging a fair trade coffee campaign and a sweatfree apparel campaign on campus at the University of Houston. See these previous posts about the campaing and check out the websites of UH Students Against Sweatshops and UH United Students for Fair Trade.
July 1, 2008
By Chris O’Brien
According to Bloomberg.com, Starbucks will close 600 stores within the next nine months and eliminate 12,000 jobs. For some perspective, that’s about 7% of its global workforce. At the end of March 2008, the company boasted 16,226 stores -just over halfway to CEO Howard Schultz’ stated goal of 30,000 outlets.
The company says most of the stores slated for shuddering are near other Starbucks locations. So, maybe opening two or three Starbucks on a block isn’t such a great business plan after all? Or is it actually a very sly strategy designed to bully smaller competitors out of business?
Starbucks Chief Financial Officer Peter Bocian admits that the stores targeted for closure were cannibalizing 25-30% of the sales of other nearby locations. But here’s the kicker. Starbucks stocks rose 4.5% immediately after the announcement.
Follow the logic here. Starbucks opens stores that it can’t afford and then closes them and gets a boost on Wall Street. Meanwhile, local competitors are put out of business while Starbucks carries the unprofitable stores. Once competitors are closed, Starbucks closes its redundant stores. That leaves the other one or two nearby Starbucks perfectly positioned to not just regain the customers from the other Starbucks but also to gain all the customers from the closed down competitor.
Maybe I’m just paranoid. Or maybe a company aiming for 30,000 stores is a beast that someone needs to slay.
June 25, 2008
Posted by Chris O’Brien
Co-op America (my former employer of nearly seven years) runs a program called Responsible Shopper that provides corporate social responsibility news and ratings about companies and whole industries. Here are their comparative ratings of the biggest coffee companies.
Notice in the small print that the color scheme ranges from green to yellow to orange to red in descending order of ‘responsibleness.’ Now notice that none of the biggest companies in the coffee industry earn a yellow score or better. Kraft and Starbucks fall in the orange sector while Sara Lee, Proctor and Gamble, and Nestle all deserve the red zone of corporate malfeasance.
Co-op America’s conclusion for how to be a ‘Responsible Shopper?’ Buy fair trade, organic, shade grown coffee.