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Protest Starbucks

Letter from OCA's Ronnie Cummins to Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz

Mr. Howard Schultz, CEO
Starbucks Coffee Company
2401 Utah Avenue South 

Seattle, WA 98134-1436

October 7, 2014

Dear Mr. Schultz,

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) has joined Green America, Food Democracy Now!, Friends of the Earth and other groups in a consumer campaign urging Starbucks to use organic milk in products sold in the company’s 20,000 stores worldwide.

Some of the organizations involved in this current campaign are new to pressuring Starbucks. But OCA and Starbucks have clashed in the past, over using milk that contained the rbGH growth hormone, and over fair trade practices (or lack thereof). As your company is aware, we are in a position to engage the support of millions of consumers nationwide.

OCA is participating in this new campaign as part of our larger strategy to expose the unhealthy, unsustainable and inhumane practices routinely engaged in by the industrial dairy industry. We believe that a company like Starbucks, which is clearly concerned about its public image, has the power and responsibility to help the growing number of dairy farmers who want to transition to producing organic milk.

We propose that Starbucks lay out a plan, and a timetable for executing that plan, for solving any potential supply (of organic milk) issues. That plan (in the U.S.) would consist of identifying regional suppliers of organic milk, and then helping those suppliers grow their businesses by agreeing to source a growing percentage of organic milk from each supplier, over a prescribed period of time, until those suppliers eventually are able to provide all of the milk Starbucks requires in order to go 100-percent organic in each region.

Your current solution, of offering organic soy milk, is not satisfactory. Nor is it satisfactory to just “offer” organic milk, at a higher price, while continuing to use non-organic milk. We all know that price is an issue of supply and demand. If Starbucks demands organic milk, the supply will appear—and costs will ultimately level out.

In an article by FOX News, published online on October 6, your company spokesperson said: "We understand that organic dairy is an important issue for some of our customers and are constantly evaluating our sourcing options to ensure we are offering the highest quality products. In the meantime, we do provide customers the choice of organic soy milk in our stores, globally."

We are not clear on what “constantly evaluating our sourcing options to ensure we are offering the highest quality products . . .” means. However, unless organic milk is the only milk product Starbucks offers, Starbucks is not providing the “highest quality products.”

Starbucks recently launched a global marketing campaign aimed at improving the company’s perception as “cool.” We suggest that money could be better spent on developing a plan to transition to organic milk. If Starbucks made such a transition, the company would become more cool—instead of having to hire professionals to create the illusion of “coolness.”

As OCA ramps up its campaign against the industrial dairy industry, and pushes for labeling on milk from cows fed a diet of GMO corn, soy and cottonseed, consumers will no longer be fooled by pictures on milk cartons of happy cows grazing on pretty grass pastures. They will look for organic milk on grocery shelves—and in coffee shops.

We have gathered more than 30,000 signatures (so far) on our petition, asking Starbucks to switch to organic. We hope you will respond to consumer demand by announcing a plan to transition to organic milk.

Thank you.

Ronnie Cummins
International Director of the Organic Consumers Association and its sister organization in Mexico, Via Organica