Case | HBS Case Collection | October 2002 (Revised May 2004)

Starbucks and Conservation International

by James E. Austin and Cate Reavis


Starbucks, the world's leading specialty coffee company, developed a strategic alliance with Conservation International, a major international environmental nonprofit organization. The purpose of the alliance was to promote coffee-growing practices of small farms that would protect endangered habitats. The collaboration emerged from the company's corporate social responsibility policies and its coffee procurement strategy. The initial project was in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas and resulted in the incorporation of shade-grown coffee into the Starbucks product line, providing an attractive alternative market for the farmer cooperatives at a time when coffee producers were in economic crisis due to plummeting world prices. Simultaneously, the company had to deal with growing pressures from nonprofit organizations in the Fair Trade movement, demanding higher prices for farmers. Starbucks was reviewing the future of its alliance with Conservation International and its new coffee procurement guidelines aimed at promoting environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable coffee production. The nature of the industry puts the case in the global context from both the supply and demand sides.

Keywords: Financial Crisis; Growth and Development Strategy; Markets; Demand and Consumers; Production; Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Cooperative Ownership; Performance Efficiency; Alliances; Nonprofit Organizations; Food and Beverage Industry; Mexico;


Austin, James E., and Cate Reavis. "Starbucks and Conservation International." Harvard Business School Case 303-055, October 2002. (Revised May 2004.)