Starbucks concept. Coffee cup on table in foreground with workers in background preparing product
Chantel Brink
Chantel Brink
January 11, 2024 ·  2 min read

Starbucks Being Sued for Sourcing Coffee from Farms with Rights Abuses

A group that supports consumers is taking legal action against Starbucks, the world’s biggest coffee brand, accusing it of false advertising. The group claims that the world-renowned brand gets its coffee and tea from farms with human rights and labor issues. This is despite promoting its commitment to ethical sourcing.

The lawsuit, filed in a Washington, D.C., court on behalf of American consumers, argues that Starbucks is deceiving the public by marketing its “100% ethical” sourcing commitment while knowingly buying from suppliers with documented human rights and labor abuses.

It seems Starbucks has been dishonest with consumers

Photo of a Starbucks coffeehouse at Dusk
Image Credit: Jonathan Cooper Pexels

Sally Greenberg, CEO of the National Consumers League, the group behind the case, stated, “On every bag of coffee and box of K-cups that Starbucks sells, where they’re heralding their commitment to 100% ethical sourcing. But it’s pretty clear that there are significant human rights and labor abuses across Starbucks’ supply chain.”

The lawsuit points to instances of human rights and labor abuses on specific coffee and tea farms in Guatemala, Kenya, and Brazil claiming that Starbucks continues to buy from these suppliers despite documented violations.

Brown and White Plastic Coffee Bags on Brown Wooden Shelf
Image Credit: Eric Steinhauer Pexels

Starbucks fired back

Starbucks responded, “We are aware of the lawsuit, and plan to aggressively defend against the asserted claims that Starbucks has misrepresented its ethical sourcing commitments to customers.” The company emphasized its dedication to addressing the allegations and maintaining ethical standards.

Read: Couple Says Starbucks Charged Them Nearly $4,500 For 2 Cups Of Coffee

Putting workers through unsafe labor practices too

Photo of Brown Coffee Beans Beside a Starbucks Logo
Image Credit: Engin Akyurt Pexels

The lawsuit also highlights reported labor abuses in Brazil, where officials cracked down on their suppliers for unsafe labor practices, including underaged workers and poor working conditions. Starbucks pledged to investigate and take corrective action in response to these allegations.

The legal action aims to prevent Starbucks from making claims about its ethical sourcing unless it improves labor practices within its supply chain. The brand utilizes third-party certification programs, such as C.A.F.E. Practices, to ensure the integrity of its supply chains. However, experts argue that such programs may have flaws in addressing issues like forced labor and child labor.

It’s not only their problem – it’s much bigger than that

Genevieve LeBaron, director of the School of Public Policy at Simon Fraser University, noted that the problem extends beyond Starbucks. Emphasizing the importance of ethical commitments from large players like Starbucks in maintaining supply chain integrity.

Despite Starbucks’ efforts to oversee its supply chains and implement standards, challenges persist in achieving a truly ethical supply chain, especially in agriculture, where sourcing goods below the cost of production remains a prevalent issue.

And it seems that the well-known brand has faced similar lawsuits in the past:


  1. Starbucks sued for allegedly using coffee from farms with rights abuses while touting its ‘ethical’ sourcing.” NBC News. Kenzi Abou-Sabe and Adiel Kaplan. January 10, 2024