What is Starbucks C.A.F.E. practices? (how do Starbucks C.A.F.E. practices work + more information)

Starbucks obtain its coffee from farmers in various regions, and as a result, they have developed a set of practices known as Starbucks C.A.F.E to guide the relationship between the company and the farmer. So, what is Starbucks C.A.F.E practice?

C.A.F.E practice is a program of continuous verification that measures farms against environmental, social, and economic criteria to promote sustainable, profitable, and transparent practices of growing coffee and protect the interests of the community, families, workers, and coffee farmers.

As a coffee grower in a cooperative that directly supplies to Starbucks, I live in a community, family, and among coffee workers to whom the Starbucks C.A.F.E practices are intended. In this post, I will discuss how Starbucks’ C.A.F.E practices work and the four criteria of C.A.F.É practices.

How do Starbucks C.A.F.E. practices work?

C.A.F.E practices involve evaluation, support, and oversight roles. First, Starbucks gets the producers or the suppliers to agree to coffee quality and to offer economic transparency before engaging in any business. Starbucks evaluates the current condition of coffee from such farmers or suppliers and decides on its quality.

After the pre-requisite evaluation, Starbucks requires the suppliers to make a formal application that enumerates the coffee supply chain and everything involved. The application must also contain a commitment to adhere to the C.A.F.É practice.

In such supply chains, third parties are involved but must first be approved and overseen by S.C.S. global services. They are then tasked with the inspection of warehouses and facilities for milling, which is in the supply chain. They evaluate performance against a scorecard of up to 200 indicators after which they submit a verification report that Starbucks uses to assign C.A.F.É practice status.

The supply chains that meet the standards in the scorecard are approved, and suppliers agree to observe C.A.F.E practices. Additionally, Starbucks admits the suppliers to the Farmers support center to continually assist them in improving their C.A.F.E practice status. Such is essential because Starbucks needs to keep improving its support to the community families, workers, and coffee farmers to match their dynamic needs. C.A.F.E practices must be in tandem with the needs of the dynamic society.

Additionally, the continuous improvement program also involves constant evaluation of the suppliers to ensure they are always compliant. Non-compliant suppliers are suspended until they resolve the issues raised.

What are the criteria that makeup Starbucks C.A.F.E practices?


Starbucks has established quality standards for the coffee that suppliers must deliver. Some of the quality considerations include the origin of coffee. Origin determines the taste of coffee. Coffee grown in low-altitude areas differs from those produced in high-altitude regions. The soils also determine the taste and quality of coffee. The variety of coffee is significant in determining its quality. Starbucks prefers high-quality arabica coffee beans. Another factor that determines quality is processing. This explains where the C.A.F.E scorecard focuses on the processing facilities in the supply chain. Poor processing leads to poor quality coffee. Other quality factors to consider include the color of the beans, smell, size, and shape.

Since Starbucks seeks the highest quality coffee, it also pays a premium to farmers to ensure farmers’ profitability. Producing high-quality coffee may require an extra investment, thus increasing the production cost. Starbucks considers such and therefore pays higher than the market prices of the coffee. Premiums paid above the market prices are an appreciation for the efforts to provide quality coffee throughout the supply chain.

Social Responsibility

Starbucks C.A.F.E. practices

Farmers who supply coffee to Starbucks must provide a safe and conducive environment for the workers and compensate them accordingly. Although the C.A.F.E practices do not dictate the environment in which coffee farm workers must operate, it is clear that farmers must provide a humane, safe, and fair working environment. Additionally, such workers must be renumerated fairly, have necessary benefits, have standard working hours, are hired through the right procedures, have access to education and medical care, and have protective equipment.

C.A.F.E practices dictate that seasonal and permanent workers must be paid pursuant to the salary regulations in that region or the national laws. For instance, a farmer should not pay below the minimum wage for that region and must consider a worker’s skill and experience so that skillful and experienced workers do not receive a mere minimum wage.

Finally, the C.A.F.E regulation strictly disapproves of the use of child labor.

The farmers violating workers’ rights score poorly in the pre-evaluation stage and may not qualify to supply Starbucks. Others who qualify but violate are discontinued until they prove to have fully complied.

Economic transparency

C.A.F.E practices require that suppliers share all information concerning payments throughout the supply chain to the farm. Starbucks is interested in whether each person or group receives their fair share for their work in the supply chain. In most cases, intermediaries in a supply chain pay farmers poorly, which may impact the quality of coffee they produce. Therefore, the C.A.F.E practices demand transparency so that Starbucks knows what each party is paid and whether it is fair.

Environmental Leadership

how do Starbucks C.A.F.E. practices work

C.A.F.E practices seek to protect the environment by ensuring water protection, energy conservation, biodiversity preservation, soil health improvement, and agrochemical use reduction. The C.A.F.E practices prohibit the destruction of natural forests to create more arable land and against indiscriminate use of pesticides. It also requires support measures such as preventing soil erosion by providing ground cover and using shade trees to avoid excessive evaporation and wind erosion.

Environmental leadership also supports farmers in coping and adapting to climate change.

Final thoughts

C.A.F.E practices play a significant role in guiding farmers into best farming practices. They contribute to producing quality coffee, conserving the environment, and fairness to workers and participants in the supply chain.

F.A.Q. section

Does Starbucks use Child Labor?

No, the C.A.F.E practices strictly prohibit child labor.

Does Starbucks source its coffee ethically?

Yes, the C.A.F.E practices enhance the ethical sourcing of coffee

How can Starbucks improve ethically?

It can improve ethically by involving all the stakeholders in designing the C.A.F.E practices

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