Conservation International contact us | site map | search    
The Center for Environmental Leadership in Business
enewsletter | news & features | publications & resources    
CI and Starbucks Bring Conservation Message to Seattle

On October 2, 2004, Conservation International and Starbucks Coffee Company partnered to host CI’s third fundraising dinner for Seattle’s conservation community. Raising nearly $1.8 million, the dinner, "Earth at a Crossroads," featured Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jared Diamond as the evening’s keynote speaker as well as remarks by CI board members Harrison Ford and Orin Smith.

Orin Smith, president and chief executive officer of Starbucks, delivered the opening remarks. Starbucks and CI have partnered since 1998 to develop business solutions to protect biodiversity and provide economic opportunities to coffee farmers.

Mr. Smith provided attendees with an overview of the company’s conservation efforts, including how Starbucks and CI developed Coffee and Farmer Equity (C.A.F.E.) Practices, a set of environmental, economic and socially responsible coffee buying guidelines.

"We expect that by 2007 that 60 percent of the coffee we purchase worldwide will be bought under these standards (Coffee and Farmer Equity (C.A.F.E.) Practices), which is equivalent to the amount of coffee we buy today,” Mr. Smith stated.

We invite you to read excerpts of Mr. Smith’s speech below. For further information on Conservation International’s partnership with Starbucks, please visit our Agriculture & Fisheries section. To learn more about how you can participate in a future CI event in 2005, please visit our Special Events page.

Excerpts of Orin Smith’s Remarks at the 2004 Seattle Dinner

October 28, 2004
Fisher Pavilion at Seattle Center
Seattle, Washington

Thank you, all of you, for being here this evening. With everything that is happening in the world, it’s a lot to ask to have a turn out such as this. Unfortunately, there are many issues that challenge us each and every day; one example is global warming. We are now learning about our icecaps melting, oceans rising, learning that the degradation may not be linear, and that overnight London may turn into an iceberg. However, the Boston Red Sox did win eight in a row. As you know, anything can happen. (Applause)

By last count, there are about 825 of you here this evening, and that is more than two years ago, and that’s good news. However, you know that the bad news is that we only have 800 dinners (he jokes), so I have asked tonight’s servers to pour the wine freely and pass the scrumptious desserts, and together we should make it through this evening. But this is an incredible turnout, and thank you so much for being here, and for your incredible generosity. At last count, it appears as if we have raised about $1.7 million from tonight’s event. Peter [Seligmann] told me, just a little while ago, he was confident by the end of the evening we will meet our goal.

I’m very proud of what is happening here in Seattle. As I understand it, with this kind of turnout, with this kind of fundraising effort, this makes it one of the largest fundraising efforts of its kind in the environmental area in the United States. (Applause)

Peter thanked a lot of the people who were responsible for tonight. Patrice (Auld), for her leadership, our dinner committee, and Harrison (Ford) for the time he has so freely given last night and tonight. Thank you both for the years of service you have given Conservation International, your financial contributions, your time, your passion, and the wisdom of your leadership.

In addition, there are many of Starbucks’ people and business partners here tonight. In fact, we even have partners who run some of our operations outside of North America joining us. These business partners supply us with our incredible products, all of whom have made a great contribution to Conservation International because they are part of the Starbucks family. And I am blessed that they can be part of this organization and can contribute in the way that they do! Thank you very much for being here, and my thanks to all of those who couldn’t make it. I also have to thank my own people and the people of Conservation International who have contributed not only their own monies, but spent so much time making this wonderful event what it is. Thank you so much.

Many of you probably wonder why Starbucks is such a visible sponsor of this organization (CI). The relationship began in the early 1990s when we were barely a company, and we decided we needed to give back to the communities and the environments in which we do business.

We decided we couldn’t just give back to the communities where we have retail stores, but have to also give back to the communities that grow our coffees. Later in the 1990s, Conservation International came to us and asked us to do more than give money. So together we created a partnership, first in Chiapas, Mexico, where with CI’s help, we were able to nearly double the income of farmers from whom Starbucks purchased conservation coffee in exchange for a commitment that they would produce their coffee in a way that conserved the environment of the El Triunfo Biosphere reserve. The reserve is home to several very important species indigenous to Southeastern Mexico. Through such efforts, we have encouraged farmers not only to produce coffee that is environmentally sustainable, but also to plant trees on their farms, and to farm in organic ways. The Conservation International staff has facilitated much of this training, and the result has been that farmers have nearly doubled their incomes in the area. Farmers have created a coffee buffer zone that protects the El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve. (Applause)

It (our partnership with CI) has been a win for the environment, a win for coffee farmers and their communities, and a win for our customers because we are able to offer them a great shade-grown coffee. We learned a lot from that experience. We learned that the high prices we pay for coffee in this last year were almost twice what the commodity price was, a price that enables farmers to provide for their families and invest in their farms into the future. We found that because we paid premium prices, we had opportunities to work with farmers and farming communities to encourage sustainable coffee production. We also recognized that implementing this project was a tedious process that would take years to have a major impact. So, in partnership with Conservation International, we created a set of coffee buying guidelines, which enabled us to extend the opportunity for long-term sustainability into our entire supply chain. It gave us the opportunity to encourage farmers to produce coffee under best practices standards that require environmental conservation and high social standards in the growth of the coffee. It also gave us an audit trail that allows us to determine that the money we actually pay gets into the hands and pockets of those farmers that grow the coffee beans.

Two years ago, as I mentioned, this program was in the trial stage. I am happy tonight to say that it has moved beyond that, and we are now implementing the program on a global scale. We expect by 2007 that 60 percent of the coffee we purchase worldwide will be bought under these standards, which is an amount of coffee equivalent to what we buy today in total. (Applause)

As I became more involved over the years with what we were doing with Conservation International, I and many of my partners within Starbucks began to recognize the problem was much more than a coffee issue. We were dealing with one of the biggest challenges that the world has ever faced. I think we all know that the way we live today is not sustainable. I think that we all understand that as the billions of people who live in poverty today try to live the way we do (here in the developed world) that the problem is going to worsen at a geometric pace. Any of us who have read Ed Wilson’s books knows already that we risk 50 percent of the biodiversity in the world. Already, much of the Earth’s biodiversity is gone. But I fear something even more that linearity, which I mentioned earlier. Life is a “fabric” and as we begin to pull out and destroy the threads, we may destroy our own (life). I don’t worry that eventually life on this planet will return. It has great resilience, but it may return without us! In the end, it has to do with not only quality of life, but whether we exist at all, and this is what conservation is all about, it gives us hope and the opportunity that we can turn that tide.

So thank you for being here tonight. Peter is going to tell you more about Conservation International and then we have a great speaker, Jared Diamond, a brilliant scientist, maybe even a better writer. I first became acquainted with him several years ago when I read his book “The Third Chimpanzee.” It was disturbing in many ways because I think he too accurately described the third chimpanzee, which unfortunately is us. I think you are going to find him brilliant and insightful. This is going to be a great evening. Thank you very much for being here. (Applause)


Photo: Orin Smith, Peter Seligmann and Harrison Ford

 Photo credits for banner image: (Zebras in Botswana) © CI, Chris Brooks