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Ethical brand ratings and accreditation since 2001

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Is Starbucks an ethical brand?

Founded in 1971 in Seattle, Starbucks is now the world’s largest coffeehouse chain. It provides a variety of hot and cold beverages as well as speciality seasonal drinks. Starbucks unfortunately receives a low score on The Good Shopping Guide’s Ethical Coffee Ratings Table and as a result, cannot be classed as an ethical coffee brand. If Starbucks were to make some changes to its brand it could apply for Ethical Accreditation. This would provide The Good Shopping Guide with the opportunity to give Starbucks a detailed assessment and recommendations on how to meet our minimum ethical benchmark. The Ethical Coffee Ratings Table can show you where Starbucks ranks against other coffee brands and help you to learn more about the criteria that needs to be met for a brand to be classed as ethical.

Where does Starbucks score well?

Starbucks receives a top score for its Environmental Report. The Starbucks Stories and News website has a dedicated page for its Environmental and Social Impact Report. Under the ‘Planet’ section of its report, Starbucks has set five key strategies for change. These strategies include moving away from using single-use plastic and expanding its plant-based menu.

Starbucks also score well under Armaments and Nuclear Power due to its lack of negative records.

For more information about our research methodology, see how we rate here.

Does Starbucks have any Public Record Criticisms?

Starbucks receives a bottom score for its Public Record Criticisms from The Good Shopping Guide. On multiple occasions, Starbucks has been accused of racism. The most recent tribunal in Ireland saw Starbucks having to pay €12,000 to a customer whose drink had a racist picture drawn on the cup.

Are Starbucks coffee beans Fairtrade?

Starbucks receives a bottom score from The Good Shopping Guide under our Fairtrade category as not all of its products are Fairtrade Certified. The Fairtrade Foundation website states that some of the products that Starbucks sell do contain Fairtrade Espresso Roast. However a recent article in the Evening Standard has shown that Starbucks is planning on cutting its ties with the Fairtrade Foundation and reducing the amount of Fairtrade coffee it sells.
What can Starbucks do to improve its score? 

Starbucks’ ranking on the Ethical Coffee Ratings Table is the result of The Good Shopping Guide’s calculation of multiple ethical criteria. In order for Starbucks to meet our minimum ethical benchmark and see its position rise on our table, it has to solve some problems. This includes its Fairtrade status and history of Public Record Criticisms, especially around racism. If Starbucks were to work on its bottom scores, it could apply for Ethical Accreditation. As many consumers find it desirable for brands to be ethical and sustainable, we would encourage Starbucks to do this. With Ethical Accreditation, Starbucks could see itself becoming one of the top brands within the Ethical Coffee sector.

Do you manage or own an ethical coffee company? Perhaps you roast, grow, sell, or market beans or grinds from a single origin, or you have a strict policy requiring suppliers to be traced? Maybe you exclusively use organic or Fairtrade beans, and you genuinely care about serving high-quality coffee at every point in the supply chain. To start the process, contact us or complete our brief initial assessment form.

Ethical performance in category


GSG score


GSG category benchmark


Ethical Rating


  • Environmental Report


  • Genetic Modification


  • Organic


  • Nuclear Power



  • Animal Welfare



  • Armaments


  • Political Donations


  • Fairtrade



  • Ethical Accreditation


  • Public Record Criticisms


  • Public Record Criticisms+


= GSG Top Rating = GSG Middle Rating = GSG Bottom Rating