Thursday, August 04, 2005

Starbucks Pours Ethos

I saw something new at Starbucks this week:
OK, it's not new for Starbucks to offer bottled water. I mean just about everyone does these days. But Starbucks usually just has, I don't know, one of the basic brands offered by all the local convenience stores. So when I saw this unfamiliar "ethos" label ... I had to stop and take a closer look. It seems that Starbucks decided to use a product that fits the "think global - act local" mantra. It's not their mantra, mind you, but they do seem to do or offer products that fit this mentality. The basic idea being: Why not sell a product that has positive repurcussions far away from where it is used? You just need to find something that people will go for in large quantities. Arm bands will only go so far (sorry Lance). But everyone needs water. And just about everyone buys bottled water these days. Well, everyone in the States, that is. "According to UN statistics, while 1.1 billion people around the world lack safe water to drink, 2.4 billion have no access to water for decent sanitation. About 3 million deaths a year are attributable to poor water supplies" [CommonDreams.org]. That means over 40% of the world's population. Perhaps that is just too large a number to comprehend. So let's take a look at a subset of this group. "About 400 million children were supplied with less than 20 litres of water per day. That means one in every five child would have to cope without the absolute minimum every human needs to drink, cook and use for hygiene" [Scoop]. Pretty sobering numbers, eh? And that is why Starbucks is partnering with Ethos Water, donating 5 cents per bottle sold:
Starbucks will try to sell consumers on the idea of helping to clean up the world's water supply when it begins rolling out Ethos bottled water in its 5,000 U.S. stores. The company plans to donate $10 million over the next five years for clean-water sources in poor countries. [USAToday.com]
I'm thinking they could afford to give more than a nickel for each bottle, but I have no idea how many bottles Starbucks actually pushes on an average day. That could mean a whole lot of nickels. Still ... I bet they could afford to donate more and still break even with their bottled water sales. If Ethos Water seems new to you, that is because they've hardly been around for three years:
Helping the world's need for clean water was the founding mission of Ethos, created by Peter Thum and Jonathan Greenblatt in 2002 after a business trip by Thum in South Africa. Starbucks bought the brand in April. Since founding Ethos, which also is sold in many Whole Foods and similar stores, the partners have donated about $100,000 of its sales to water efforts by non-governmental organizations Unicef and Care. "Ethos is more like a mission with a product vs. the other way around," Thum says. [USAToday.com]
Additional Reading:

1 comment:

Josh Friedman said...

Only problem is ... as was pointed out by the same article on CommonDreams, bottling water is very stressful on the environment - it takes energy to ship the water and keep it refrigerated, then there is all the waste generated by the empty bottles, many of which end up in landfills. And, bottled water is rarely any better than tap water. Sure - donate money to send bottled water to poor countries that have no other way of getting potable water - but, please, don't buy bottled water in the US, unless you know your community's tap water is unsafe. Bottled water wastes energy and makes too much trash.