Sep 29, 2015

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Why I Boycott Starbucks

Why I Boycott Starbucks

Recently a friend jested on Facebook that he would be tagging myself and my husband every time he passed by a Starbucks; that it would be funny. What was funny is that the jest was a product of my husband hissing at a Starbucks coffee as it went by in our friend’s hand the previous week. Yes, my husband and I hiss in Starbucks’ general direction. In a moment of pride, I even made a graphic about it (see main pic)! Those who know my family have heard many times over why we choose to boycott companies like Starbucks, Walmart, McDonald’s and Kraft (just to name a few). It dawned on me, though, as a new friend asked “why?” that not everyone may understand my aversion to this and other companies, and that it may benefit the world to explain myself (though I try not to do too much of that any more).

Why I Boycott (in general)

First, I’d like to talk a little about boycotting and why I am drawn to it in general.

In a world where money seemingly rules, we’re given subtle messages (and some not-so-subtle) on a daily basis that our purpose is to consume. Life gone wrong? Consume something. Need a change of pace? Consume. Economy doing poorly? Well, it is because you haven’t consumed enough, obviously! As a natural rebel, my first response is “you can’t make me!” So, in a very general sense, my ability to boycott is my ability to say “no, thank you” to the notion that my purpose here on this earth is to consume products. It is my basic rejection of the idea that without consumption, I have little-to-know value to the world at large. It is why I boycott Black Friday.

Boycotting is also my way of “voting with my dollars.” Every consumer choice we make says something to the people who own and/or run that company. It says, “yes, I’d like more of whatever you do.” We are actually creating the world we live in with what we buy. In a sense, when we make a purchase, we’re agreeing to the business practices of the companies that benefit from that purchase; we’re actually investing in those companies so that they can continue doing what they’re doing. Without a purchaser, they have no business. By refusing to give money to certain companies, I am saying I don’t agree with their business practices, and wish them to no longer exist. I am both acknowledging my freedom and my power – the freedom to choose and the power to make the world I want to live in by making conscious choices with my purchases.

Finally, my main criteria for boycotting is hugeness. If a company is already the largest in their industry, I figure they don’t need my money; they already have enough of it. I boycott the biggest of every industry (no Walgreens for me!), and try my best to funnel my money toward small, locally owned, responsible businesses with ethical and sustainable practices. I make relationships with business owners and recommend them to others, building a web of support through our consumerism (instead of the opposite). I also recognize the dangers of monoculture as being unsustainable as well as not very fulfilling. Diversity is the key to life! It is sad to me that people will visit a new region and go to the restaurants they already know (name recognition!) rather than try the local establishments that actually make up the community. Not only do we miss out on a new experience, but we pave the way for more monoculture by saying “yes” to the monoculture that already exists.


Why I Boycott Starbucks

As a proud boycotter since 2003, I have many many reasons to boycott Starbucks. While some have changed (they have more fair trade coffee than they did 10 years ago, but not by much considering their buying power), I’ll admit my main reason is the hugeness mentioned above. Companies like Starbucks put local mom-n-pop coffee shops out of business. For every dollar spent at Starbucks, a portion of that goes up to the top and makes it so an already-rich CEO has more income. I was amazed in July when volunteering for the World Domination Summit how difficult it was to find a non-Starbucks shop to get some chai in downtown Portland. But you can bet there were at least 4-5 Starbucks in the area! Are we thinking about how much money is leaving Portland to go to the CEO of Starbucks, and how much would stay here if we were spending that same $5 on a shop that invests in their local community? Just some food for thought….

To get specific, here’s some other main reasons I choose to boycott Starbucks (with links):

  • Employee Treatment. Ok, so people always tell me when they hear of my aversion to Starbucks, “but they treat their employees so well!” That may be true for those who work in the shops themselves, but due to the high demand of coffee, they employ far more workers outside of shops than they do within. And like much propaganda, what they say is happening tends to be far from the actuality of the situation. Here’s a few examples:
    • In 2013 Kelsey Timmerman decided to go and talk to the coffee farmers that Starbucks was supposedly helping with their great support of small farmers. No one had really heard of them….
    • Recently in April 2015 Starbucks was called out in the UK. This article states “As well as being penalised for its well-publicised tax avoidance, Starbucks was criticised for trade union violations, removing paid lunch breaks, political lobbying and a lack of commitment to sourcing sustainable palm oil.”
    • Here’s an article not specifically about Starbucks (though they are included), but about the notion of Fair Trade and what it really means. A quote: “For every dollar spent by an American consumer to purchase a fair-trade product, only 3 cents is transferred to the producer in the country it came from.” Doesn’t sound very “fair” to me!
  • Their ties with Monsanto and the fight against GMO labelling, their representation of monoculture. I could say it in my own words, but so many other people have said it better! Here’s some links to other articles talking about the dangers of supporting Starbucks, and what their bottom line really is:

What to Do

Keep in mind I am not here to tell you what to do, or to judge your choices. My goal with this post is to bring awareness. Only when we know can we choose. My family chooses to not support certain companies, and your family gets to make your own choices.

Of course, ideally, in my mind, we could all stop supporting these companies any day and they would no longer exist. Every time we choose to put our money into local establishments we are literally creating a new world. In the end it begs the question: What type of world do you want to co-create?



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