Trademarking Coffee: Starbucks cuts Ethiopia deal by Anton Foek, Special to CorpWatch May 8th, 2007
Starbucks, the world's largest coffee shop chain, and the Ethiopian government are on the verge of unveiling a deal that the company hopes will end attacks on the company's carefully constructed ethical image. Starbucks spokesperson Bridget Baker told CorpWatch that "a licensing, distribution and marketing" agreement for three of Ethiopia's specialty coffees would be announced later this month. If the company recognizes Ethiopia's decision to trademark the three coffees, it would represent a significant climb-down for the multinational corporation that claims to sell "Coffee that Cares."
Starbucks change of mind would also represent success for an international campaign by Oxfam, a British-based not-for-profit organization. More than 93,000 people signed on to its call for Starbucks to complete an agreement with Ethiopia. An academic at the University of Oxford's Saïd Business School joined the attack with a stinging criticism of the company's stand, accusing it of hypocrisy and questioning its much-proclaimed social responsibility policies. Starbucks executives - running an ambitious global expansion plan that aims to increase the number of the company's coffee houses from 13,700 in 39 countries to 40,000 globally - were also aware that other companies, such as Green Mountain Coffee Roasters ("Fair Trade and Organic"), were cooperating with the Ethiopian initiative and winning praise for "exemplary" behavior.
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