Under-fire Starbucks 'ignored PR advice'

A major UK PR agency warned Starbucks at least two years ago that its policy of leaving a tap running constantly in each of its 10,000 stores was a potential PR disaster.

'Starberks': The Sun splash
'Starberks': The Sun splash

The coffee chain hit the headlines this week when The Sun splashed with the story that ‘Starberks’ wastes 23 million litres of water each day because staff worldwide are told to run taps non-stop.

Speaking to PRWeek after the story broke, an agency source said the coffee chain had been advised previously that the practice would be a risk to its ethical position.

The source claimed that agency staffers had pointed out the risk to Starbucks during their mandatory shifts at one of the chain’s stores – which all of the firm’s PR agencies have to undertake.

‘We warned them several years ago that their usage of water was not good for their environmental credentials and could be a potential problem for them. They listened, but they didn’t do anything about it,’ said the senior-level source.

Starbucks declined to comment. When The Sun story first broke on Monday, Starbucks defended its actions.
However, the next day the coffee chain agreed to turn off its taps following the media pressure.

Starbucks has come under fire for its ethical credentials in the past. Earlier this year it hired Fishburn Hedges for a wide-ranging UK corporate comms and public affairs brief to boost its CSR credentials (PRWeek, 25 July).

Rival high-street coffee chain Costa Coffee also decided to re-evaluate its ethical credentials when it appointed Grayling to promote the brand earlier this year (PRWeek,
6 June).

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