Coffee News Club: Week of June 19th

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Starbucks allegedly ordered the removal of Pride decorations. Plus, the Intercontinental Exchange launches a traceability service for coffee companies, and Nordic Approach joins the list of coffee acquisitions. 

‘Starbucks Is Under Scrutiny Over Removal of Pride Decorations’ – via New York Times

Managers have told workers at Starbucks locations nationwide not to decorate their stores for Pride Month, with some even removing already-hung decorations. Starbucks Workers United documented dozens of instances of managers banning pro-LGBTQ+ decorations. However, the company insisted no such corporate policy exists and called reports to the contrary “false information.”

The New York Times interviewed multiple workers across several states, who said they received various reasons for the bans:

One worker was told there were not enough paid hours available for the work. Another was told that décor choices needed to be standardized across regions. One partner, as Starbucks refers to employees, was told by a manager that hanging a rainbow flag might make customers uncomfortable. Others said they were told that if they hung a Pride flag the store could be asked to show equal representation for others, including the Proud Boys, the far-right hate group. Some managers also cited safety concerns.

In response to the allegations, a Starbucks spokesperson called these examples the “outlier versus the norm” and noted that local managers have the discretion to decide on a store’s look. Fast Company, however, reported on messages from store managers “suggesting that policy changes did, in fact, occur this year on at least the regional level, and it appears that these bans are being enforced at a number of union stores.”

Starbucks Workers United called the moves “a clear continuation of Starbucks’ anti-union campaign to intimidate workers and make them feel unwelcome in their own workplace.”

Read the full story here.

‘ICE Launching EU ‘Deforestation-Free’ Compliance Service for Coffee Buyers’ – via Daily Coffee News

At the end of 2024, new European Union regulations will come into effect prohibiting importing commodities linked to deforestation. Companies looking to sell within the EU will need to supply a due diligence statement and data proving their goods were not grown on land deforested post-2020.

To help coffee and cocoa companies prepare to implement this new law, the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) is launching a traceability service called ICE Commodity Traceability (ICoT).

A for-profit company, ICE maintains the globally-recognized commodity coffee futures market, known as the C price. More than 500 million tons of green coffee and cocoa were traded through ICE markets in 2022, which the company says allows it to work closely with industry players to design a tool to help them comply with the impending legislation.

Clive de Ruig of ICE Benchmark Administration, the ICE unit that is in charge of launching ICoT, told Reuters that the tool will independently check and verify supply chain data to ensure compliance: “ICoT will carry out automated data quality verification tests on the traceability data submitted by traders, (including) validating farm data against other sources of geospatial data such as satellite imagery.” 

The EU is the world’s largest coffee market, and failure to comply with the new anti-deforestation legislation could mean hefty fines. As we noted previously, not everyone is thrilled with the new laws, as smallholder farmers could struggle due to cost of compliance and lack of support and be completely shut out of the market.

Read the full story here.

‘Neumann Kaffee Gruppe Acquires Green Coffee Importer Nordic Approach’ – via Sprudge

German coffee group Neumann Kaffee Gruppe (NKG) acquired Nordic Approach, becoming the latest specialty coffee importer to be acquired by a billion-dollar multinational.

NKG has purchased a majority share in Oslo, Norway-based Nordic Approach, along with Tropiq, an importing company under the Nordic umbrella. Nordic Approach was founded in 2011 by Tim Wendelboe, Morten Wennersgaard, and Andreas Hertzberg. The latter two will continue as minority shareholders and managing directors of both companies.

“Nordic Approach, Tropiq and NKG are aligned in the focus on sustainability and supporting coffee growing communities at scale,” the pair said as part of NKG’s press release. “We believe that this step will open doors to new possibilities, collaborations, and resources that will benefit our team, our customers and the specialty coffee community.”

NKG is a global green coffee services group, with 50 companies across 26 countries featuring farms, mills, export, and import companies—including within the specialty coffee space with importers Atlas Coffee and InterAmerican Coffee. Nordic Approach’s purchase is the second major specialty green coffee acquisition of 2023: in February, the multinational company Sucafina bought the progressive specialty trading company Sustainable Harvest.

Read the full story here.

More News

Peet’s Coffee Closing Oakland Warehouse, 110 Employees Affected‘ – via Daily Coffee News

Mozambique Joins the ICO and Signs International Coffee Agreement’ – via World Coffee Portal

Death Wish Takes On Death Hell in Trademark Infringement Suit‘ – via Daily Coffee News

Introducing Junior’s Roasted Coffee’s Cost of Production Covered Template‘ – via Fresh Cup Magazine

World of Coffee Coming to Copenhagen in 2024‘ – via Daily Coffee News

Central Perk Coffeehouse From ‘Friends’ Reportedly Set to Open in Boston’ – via CBS News

FairWave Acquires Milwaukee’s Anodyne Coffee Roasting Co.’ – via Daily Coffee News

The Week in Coffee Unionizing

  • Starbucks has settled a case with the National Labor Relations Board and agreed to provide back pay to ten unionized employees who the brand prevented from working at a coffee kiosk during a University of Washington football game in 2022. At the time, Starbucks claimed that unionized workers could not work shifts at the stadium. This is the first unfair labor charge settlement that the company has agreed to without proclaiming that the brand disagrees with the findings or proclaiming they’re not liable—basically, it seems like they accepted the court’s findings that they violated the law. “We fight every day against these clear violations of the law, and I’m relieved Starbucks is finally willing to take accountability for something,” organizer Mari Cosgrove said.
  • Workers at three Peet’s Coffee locations in Berkeley and Oakland, California, have filed for union elections to join the Industrial Workers of the World IU 460. Organizers say they have experienced “wage stagnation, understaffing, and unsafe working conditions.” If the petition is successful, this will be the second Peet’s location with union representation after a store in Davis, California, voted overwhelmingly to unionize at the start of 2023. A spokesperson for Peet’s said that the company will “adhere to the process every step of the way.”
  • Baristas at Little Dog Coffee Shop in Maine, who unionized with Workers United in late 2022, have gone on strike for the second time in a month. The striking workers say the shop’s owner, Larry Flaherty, has not adequately addressed issues with staffing and equipment. In May, the union filed an unfair labor practice charge with the NLRB alleging Flaherty has failed to bargain with the union in good faith—the two parties have yet to agree on a union contract.
  • Workers from another recently-unionized cafe also went on strike: baristas at Three Brothers Coffee in Nashville walked out over allegations of delay tactics from ownership. “We are basically asking them to finalize negotiations, hold a vote for the contract as soon as possible, hopefully this week, and agree to our wage proposal of $16 an hour plus tip matching,” barista and union member Paige Lemon said.

The Week in Corporate Coffeewashing

Starbucks goes through a lot of milk—each year, the company purchases over 140 million gallons of the white stuff. Starbucks wants its dairy to be environmentally friendly, and in 2022 launched the Sustainable Dairy Program.

According to the company, the program is “designed to advance environmental stewardship, help enhance farmer and workforce conditions, and help ensure the quality care of animals.” So far, every one of Starbucks’ California-based dairy partners has joined the program, and it aims to get 60% of its vendors on board with the initiative by the end of the fiscal year. Starbucks has also signed up for and committed $10 million to the dairy industry’s US Dairy Net Zero Initiative. 

Dairy usage accounts for 22% of Starbucks’ global carbon emissions, making it the most significant contributor to its carbon footprint. Worldwide, the dairy industry was responsible for 1.7 billion tons of CO2-equivalent (a measurement used to standardize the climate effects of various greenhouse gasses) in 2015, accounting for 3.4% of the world’s total emissions and nearly double that of aviation—and that’s not even accounting for dairy’s animal welfare issues.

Starbucks’ $10 million investment will be used to research ways to reduce dairy’s environmental impact, such as on-farm energy efficiency, better management of manure, and changes to cattle feed. But you can only reduce so much when the key part of your industry—cows—emit so much methane.

Beyond the Headlines

‘The Hipster Barista Does Not Exist’ by Ashley Rodriguez

‘At Slow Bloom, Unionized Baristas Are Their Own Bosses’ by James Anderson

‘The Deep, Rich and Problematic History of Coffee in Australia and Worldwide’ by Sophie Kesteven and Julie Street

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Fionn Pooler

Fionn Pooler is a coffee roaster and freelance writer currently based in the Scottish Highlands who has worked in the specialty coffee industry for over a decade. Since 2016 he has written the Pourover, a newsletter and blog that uses interviews and critical analysis to explore coffee’s place in the wider, changing world (and also yell at corporations).

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