Charity relying on consumerism

Buying an item from a big coffee shop chain can be wrought with ethical dilemma

Photo by Sebastian Dumitru on Unsplash

I have been quite loyal to Starbucks. The global market for the coffee shop lifestyle has been pursued by Starbucks with one seemingly on every 2nd city street corner since I first noticed them in the early 2000s. They are familiar and for my tastebuds have a nice coffee, filtered or otherwise. The filtered coffee is a reasonable price in comparison to others. The UK price extends my loyalty app top-up to go further to reach 15 stars before the reward of a free coffee. I usually get a more expensive one to celebrate, and that does not come out of my wallet. As a Scot, I like to be canny!

In the argument against the globalized commodified coffee shop, Starbucks has created a model that can make it difficult for local or smaller coffee sellers to be competitive. Shops are in prime locations that can sustain the business rate costs others cannot. It is a similar case with other chains. Corporation/Business Tax is another area where Starbucks has excelled in managing to pay less, supported by a UK government with little inclination on challenging them and fearful of the impact on the retail landscape should they withdraw or downsize shops.

After years of Starbucks being demonized for its drawbacks, they have been smart enough to tap into campaigns that create an ethical framework for the delivery of their product and service. Currently, Starbucks is supporting Mermaids, a charity based on supporting transgender and gender-diverse young people and families. Starbuck aims to sell a mermaid tail cookie from which 50 pence of the sale goes toward the target of £100,000 toward the charities Helpline. I find this interesting because the members of the LGBT community I have spoken with over the years rally against capitalism and consumerism with a proportion of the Transgender and gender non-conforming community being the most vocal. That the ivory towers of capitalism must fall before smaller communities can benefit from healthier economic lives. Those that live by the rules of social egalitarian living offer food, shelter, and housing to other members often finding themselves the risk of eviction and homelessness.

I don’t think Starbucks are targeting the mermaid cookie at the LGBT community exclusively but for allies and supporters who are exposed to the backstory through advertising and publicity. Does Starbucks become acceptable because charities rely on money to deliver services? £100,000 is enough for their helpline for the moment and negates the maelstrom that takes place in public spheres when an award of public funding could be given for the helpline. I am the individual purchasing a mermaid cookie or I don’t.

A big brand name like Starbucks supporting a charity makes a huge impact on targeted funding. This relies on the consumer/customer to have a desire to contribute to the chosen charity, regardless of the item. Perhaps it taps into a nice looking cookie design that people are attracted to rather than any commitment to the charity. My cookie was nice but sweaty from the lights. I got a sugar rush, and a responsibility rush from buying it. The choice of a UK charity over February’s LGBT History Month ties in well. A month for raising awareness of LGBT+ history and straddling that awareness with commodification.

Starbucks may have tax, employment, and ethical issues on a global scale. I would imagine it doesn’t have to worry e by any backlash because of it’s size and scale. Maybe to my detriment, I visit Starbucks twice a week on average and a local chain of coffee shops about once. Not exactly loyal but neither am I a convert because of the Mermaids campaign. Tapping into those profits maybe I should have donated the whole £1.89 cost directly, but that takes more time than a purchase. I may never get it right but I offer the point of thinking freely and questioning your choices. They may not be the same as others but they are mine.

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