Unseen Text: Ethical Sourcing: Coffee
Text Type: Informative Text – Online Text – Mission Statement
Guiding Question: How is language in this article used to convince the reader?
This text is an excellent example of the dangers of jargon and the way vague or unsubstantiated claims can erode the credibility of a source. The text is purportedly informative, but comes across as trying a bit too hard, and ends up as nothing more than a thinly disguised advertisement text. The response focuses heavily on the stylistic features of language use. A good exercise might be to add your own analysis of some of the formal features of the text: heading, subheading, embedded links, image and webpage features. Can you develop the argument even further with attention to these details?
Ethical Sourcing: Coffee
Making coffee the world’s first sustainable product to improve the lives of at least 1 million people in coffee communities around the world.
Starbucks is dedicated to helping farmers overcome the challenges facing coffee communities. We are committed to buying 100 percent ethically sourced coffee in partnership with Conservation International. To improve productivity and sustainability, we share our research and resources through our Farmer Support Centers —located in coffee-producing countries around the world. They’re open to farmers regardless of whether they sell to us. Thanks to the support of our customers, we’re also donating millions of disease-resistant trees to help farmers fight threats like coffee leaf rust. And through our Global Farmer Fund program, we’re investing $50 million toward financing for farmers, allowing them to renovate their farm or pursue more sustainable practices.
Now we’re collaborating with the industry to make coffee the world’s first sustainable agricultural product, as a founding member of the Sustainable Coffee Challenge.
In total, Starbucks has invested more than $100 million in supporting coffee communities. Collaborative farmer programs and activities – including Coffee and Farmer Equity (C.A.F.E.) Practices, farmer support centers, farmer loans and forest carbon projects. All of these programs directly support improving farmer livelihoods and ensuring a long-term supply of high-quality coffee for the industry.
More than three years after announcing an industry milestone of 99% ethically sourced coffee, Starbucks has announced the launch of a pilot program with select coffee farmers in Costa Rica, Colombia, and Rwanda, aimed to demonstrate how technology and innovative data platforms can give coffee farmers even more financial empowerment and share real-time data along the journey of coffee beans within the supply chain.
The pilot allows Starbucks in collaboration with Conservation International, to explore the viability of scaling the traceability technology and ensuring positive impact to farmers. True to its open-source philosophy, Starbucks plans to share this system and what it learns openly.
In deploying a comprehensive strategy, Starbucks is improving the resilience of our supply chain and ensuring the long-term supply of high-quality coffees, as well as building stronger, enduring farming communities for generations to come.
Making coffee the first sustainable agricultural product:
We know that the most pressing issues in coffee can’t be solved by one company alone, and that the best solutions require everyone coming together to collaborate in bringing about a better future for farmers. Our journey of ethical sourcing requires looking beyond our own supply chain. After achieving our 99% ethically sourced milestone, Starbucks asked “what’s next, and how can we work with the whole sector to get to 100% sustainable coffee?”
Starbucks is a founding member, alongside a growing coalition of industry leaders, of the Sustainable Coffee Challenge, a call to action led by Conservation International to make coffee the world’s first sustainable agriculture product. The challenge is convening the sector to sustain the future supply of coffee while ensuring the prosperity and well-being of farmers and workers and conserving nature.
The Sustainable Coffee Challenge, is a joint initiative of over 90 partners working together to make coffee the world’s first sustainable agricultural product. Members include coffee producers, retailers, traders, roasters, importers, industry associations, governments, donor agencies and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that are building a sustainability roadmap for achieving a fully sustainable coffee sector.
In 2017 the Sustainable Coffee Challenge launched its first action networks to coordinate industry action and investment. By launching Collective Action Networks the Challenge will advance sharing of experience and collaboration to significantly advance our progress toward sustainable coffee production.
One of the first Action Networks tackles the issue around aging trees and a focus to support tree replacement or rehabilitation. Starbucks recent commitment to provide 100 million trees to farmers by 2025 has a cumulative effect when added to the work of The Sustainable Coffee Challenge who recently announced an industry wide effort to re-plant 1 billion coffee trees.
– Taken from www.starbucks.com (2018)
This text is taken from an official Starbucks website and is explaining how Starbucks intends to make ‘coffee the world’s first sustainable product to improve the lives of millions of people around the world.’ The intended readership of this text is wide: Starbucks is a global company and millions of people enjoy drinking Starbucks coffee. Yet, there is a growing awareness of the impact of modern lifestyles and large corporations on the environment, and people want to be reassured that the products they consume are good for both the environment and the people who work in faraway places who may be exploited for cheap labour. I can imagine a wide range of conscientious people searching for and reading this ‘mission statement.’ For this reason, there is a certain amount of persuasion in this text, as Starbucks may be seeking to convince readers to stay loyal to their company when plenty of alternatives are available. As there is no by-line on the article, it’s safe to say it was written ‘in-house.’ For this reason, the reader should be somewhat sceptical of the claims made, especially with regards to ‘ethical sourcing’ and ‘sustainability.’
Firstly, the text relies on repetition over explanation. The word ‘sustainable’ or ‘sustainability’ is repeated twelve times, but it is hard to find information as to what sustainability actually looks like, or what the criteria for ‘sustainable coffee’ are. The word ‘sustainability’ is used interchangeably with ‘ethically sourced’ as in the targets Starbucks set themselves: ‘after achieving our 99% ethically sourced milestone… how can we get to 100% sustainable coffee?’ The statistics in these targets flatter the company and might make readers believe that the vast majority of the work towards making the product sustainable has already been done. I wonder if this is the case. The repetition in the text does, however, have a convincing effect in terms of overwhelming the reader, who may accept it as a given fact.
That’s not to say that Starbucks are not improving the ethical sourcing of their coffee. The text is written in the active voice throughout, where either the word ‘we’ or the company name is followed by a verb: ‘we’re collaborating…’, ‘we’re investing…’, ‘Starbucks has announced…’, ‘Starbucks plans…,’ and so on. The verbs are varied and powerful, making it sound like the company is decisive and takes significant action.
Where the reader is entitled to be critical is in the detail of their achievements. The text provides many examples of vague claims and weasel words which do not communicate concrete meanings. For example, the most powerful claim in the article – ‘we are committed to buying 100 percent ethically sourced coffee’ – contains the weasel word ‘committed’; the company is not guaranteeing results, just asserting a ‘commitment’. The fourth paragraph contains the weasel word ‘aim’ in ‘aimed to demonstrate.’ Again, ‘aiming’ to do something and actually doing something are different promises. Any use of the word ‘more’ or the comparative ‘-er’ is vague when not contextualised. The text often states ‘more’ (as in ‘more sustainable practices’ and ‘more financial empowerment‘) without quantifying what ‘more’ means. A year by year graph or something similar would clarify this for readers. Occasionally, the combination of vagueness and weasel words serves to undermine the credibility of the text, such as ‘to explore the viability of scaling the traceability technology and ensuring a positive impact to farmers.’ This sentence contains so much jargon that the end result is lost somewhere in the far future.
In fact the use of jargon is a clear stylistic feature of the text. There are so many schemes and names mentioned, making it appear that Starbucks has a commitment to any and every programme they can find: ‘Global Farmer Fund Programme’, ‘Sustainable Coffee Challenge’, ‘Coffee and Farmer Equity’, and ‘Collective Action Networks’ are just some of the many examples. The meaning of all these initiatives gets lost in a blizzard of names. The writers of the text are also fans of using compound words such as ‘open-source philosophy’ and ‘long-term supply of high-quality coffee’ which sound impressive. Adjective stacking – by which a noun is preceded by several describing words – is a technique used in newspapers to fit more information into columns of limited space. Examples in this text include ‘stronger, enduring farming communities’ and ‘other non-governmental organisations.’ Here they are not employed to save space, but to convince the reader of an authority and credibility that the text may not deserve.
In conclusion, although the text dresses itself up in the language of informative texts, it really does no more than assert claims which are vague, unfinished or hard-to-credit. The use of linguistic features is meant to sound authoritative and convincing, but the constant barrage of jargon and empty language is exhausting. After reading that I definitely need a cup of coffee – just not one from Starbucks.
Categories:Paper 1 Analysis