‘Healthy’ sales mean Starbucks here to stay

Mac-Corry still ‘proudly brews’ while the University considers developing a corporate ethics guideline

Following a trial period, Starbucks coffee will be a permanent fixture in Mac-Corry cafeteria.
Following a trial period, Starbucks coffee will be a permanent fixture in Mac-Corry cafeteria.

After a trial period resulting in “healthy” sales, the University will continue to brew Starbucks coffee.

But a wide range of feedback from the trial period makes the case for a University-wide corporate ethics policy, said Bruce Griffiths, director of residence and hospitality services.

Two Starbucks canisters, part of the “We Proudly Brew” program—in which the company supplies coffee beans, a brewer and a sign reading “We Proudly Brew Starbucks Coffee,” which is appended to the brew pot—will become permanent additions to the Mackintosh-Corry Hall cafeteria.

However, students opposed to the corporate practices of the coffee company may be pleased to see a corporate ethics guideline for businesses on campus in the future.

Griffiths announced the decision in a letter to the University’s Food Advisory Committee in late May.

Although some of the committee’s members expressed dissatisfaction with the result, Griffiths said student demand for the product justified keeping the Starbucks service.

“The sales were healthy,” he said. “Starbucks represents 28 per cent of coffee sales in Mac-Corry.”

When Starbucks was introduced on campus in early March, Griffiths created a feedback service allowing customers to submit feedback on comment cards, by e-mail, or on an online petition.

Griffiths said the numerous responses revealed a sharp split.

“Customers addressed ethical considerations, fair trade, taste and desire to offer the product,” he said.

Dave Thomas, Society of Professional and Graduate Students (SGPS) president in 2005-06 and a member of the Food Advisory Committee, said he has serious misgivings regarding selling Starbucks on campus.

“Starbucks has an exceptionally poor record on corporate social responsibility,” he said. “There are multiple issues here, including anti-union and anti-worker practices by the corporation, as they are infamous for union busting; a poor record on the use of fair trade coffee, and predatory methods of expansion, meaning that they intentionally try to shut down locally operated businesses in order to expand.”

Allison Williams, AMS social issues commissioner, said she thinks the issues need to be discussed in greater detail.

“There are many people who feel that Starbucks is an extremely unethical corporation with questionable business practices,” she said. “However, I understand there are also people who feel the University would be greatly infringing on their right of choice if Starbucks was discontinued on campus.”

Sydney Dias, Sci ’07, said he doesn’t mind having Starbucks on campus.

“I think the competition would be good,” he said. “It gives you a variety to choose from.”

Priscilla Cheu, Sci ’07, said she probably wouldn’t buy Starbucks on campus.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea to have another competitor on campus,” she said. “We already have the Common Ground, and soon the Tea Room, which are both fair trade.”

Williams said she would like to see a university-wide corporate ethics policy.

“It would establish guidelines and evaluate new products before their introduction to campus and even evaluate products we offer already,” she said. “I am concerned, though, that the body would simply end up being a bureaucratic formality.”

Griffiths said there are no guidelines “measuring an organization’s worthiness to do business with, or have a presence on, the Queen’s campus,” he said in his letter to the Food Advisory Committee.

Griffiths said he has begun to develop these standards by contacting Roxy Denniston-Stewart, associate dean of student affairs.

Denniston-Stewart said creating a corporate ethics guideline will take time.

“It’s a complex issue that needs to be considered carefully, as it has the potential of impacting many different departments,” she said, adding that she will bring this to the attention of Associate Vice-Principal and incoming Dean of Student Affairs Jason Laker, who begins his five-year term in July.

This past spring Griffiths said he adopted a fair trade policy that should ensure students have the option of purchasing fair trade coffee in any building on campus.

The caveat is that the agreement only applies “where facilities and brands at each location provide,” which means that companies like Tim Hortons aren’t forced to provide a fair trade option.

Griffiths said two new facilities will serve Multatuli, a fair trade brand of coffee from a local roastery.

The “Lazy Scholar” will be located in Lower Vic Hall and will open on Labour Day weekend, and Stauffer will open its own coffee kiosk by Thanksgiving, Griffiths said.

With files from Monica Cheung

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