NEWS: Starbucks success but...
Got my fairtrade coffee at this store (#95679, 6-7 Market Place, Hitchin, Hertfordshire, England SG5 1DR). Was one of two brewing...the other was Christmas blend I think.
As a result of starting the Starbucks Challenge with GreenLAGirl.com I have been in touch with Scott Keiller, Head of CSR and Communication UK, prior to this Hitchin challenge I might add. One of the questions I recently asked was:
With FairTrade quite widely known in the UK is Starbucks planning on promoting it more proactively in its UK stores i.e. Explaining what FairTrade is, why you sell it (quite the trumpet to blow I think) and how to order it etc?Scott replied that:
We communicate our Fairtrade proposition to customers all year round through its availability in-store.Well, before buying my coffee at the Hitchin store, I figured I could put Scott's answer to the test and so I asked the Barista if she could tell me about the blends, so I could decide which one to have.
She said the Christmas was a spicy blend and that the Fairtrade was 'something to do with Fairly Traded African coffee'.
Wrong on two counts:
1) Her reply didn't explain the concept of Fairtrade (which guarantees farmers a fair pay for the coffee they grow, among other benefits).
2) She made the cardinal sin of confusing Fairtrade with "fairly traded" - Starbucks own in-house alternative ethical standard. Sadly I, and I am sure other challengers, have had similar confusing answers from Barista's in the past.
Despite Scott's confidence I don't think the Barista's reply to my question says much for Starbucks' communication about Fairtrade to their own staff, let alone to customers. Clearly Starbucks need to address these issues.
Some Baristas clearly do not know what Fairtrade is - a shortcoming of Starbucks' training, not the Baristas' of course. Others get Fairtrade and "fairly traded" confused.
If Baristas do not know what Fairtrade is, and what the difference between Fairtrade and "fairly traded" is, how can they be expected to communicate properly to customers?
Starbucks, why not sing about the fact you sell Fairtrade coffee? Why not have the official Fairtrade logo stickered on your windows saying: Fairtrade coffee available inside.
The craziest thing is that there are leaflets (in the leaflet racks) explaining what Fairtrade is, sometimes located near the counter, other times near the milk and sugar area. Why not have them at the ordering station for customers so if a Barista is unsure about how to answer a Fairtrade question they can hand the customer a leaflet? A great information tool but hardly a marketing device.
Starbucks in Singapore have moved to train all their Baristas due to the Starbucks Challenge to know and respond to customer questions about what Fairtrade means. They succeeded as the Starbucks Challenge takers who went into the store's, post-training program, found out. It can be done.
Starbucks could, at least, ensure that as part of Barista training all Barista's are given the leaflet explaining Fairtrade so they know about the product they sell. It is very short and easy to read. Took me 90 seconds. Not rocket science. Great leaflet.
Starbucks could, at best, proudly inform their staff why they sell Fairtrade, what it is and how it differs from Starbucks own "fairly traded" coffee.
Why "fairly traded"?
In Siel's discussions with Starbucks they invariably claim that if people ask for Fairtrade they will supply it. But if customers don't know Fairtrade coffee is there, and get a response similar to the one I got above when they ask what Fairtrade is, then that is hardly going to promote Fairtrade, is it?
As Siel, says:
I get the feeling that often, Starbucks really doesn’t want us to ask.I am starting to think she might be onto something here. But why would that be? Why would Starbucks not really want to push Fairtrade? I suspect that there might be a conflict of interest.
Starbucks say they pay above the odds for their non Fairtrade certified coffee, all of which is "fairly traded." But "fairly traded" cannot be relied upon in the same way as Fairtrade as it is a program controlled by Starbucks. Siel at GreenLAGirl.com has written extensively on this topic here and here.
Does Starbucks care about Fairtrade or would it suit them to just not really push Fairtrade whilst claiming credibility for selling it and instead talk up their own in-house "fairly traded" credentials?
I wrote back to Scott with follow-up questions and have explained about the Hitchin challenge above and await his response. Will keep you posted on that and the other questions I have asked him.
Sign our letter to Starbucks, take the challenge and win a prize.
But most importantly spread the word.