Starbucks sued by consumer organization for fraudulent and deceptive ethical sourcing claim.

Starbucks was sued by a consumer advocacy organization on Wednesday for falsely claiming its coffee is ethically produced. The National Consumers League referenced media allegations of mistreatment on Starbucks coffee and tea plantations. The organization questioned Starbucks' label, which declares it is “committed to 100% ethical coffee sourcing.”

Starbucks acknowledged the complaint Wednesday and will “aggressively defend against the asserted claims.” District of Columbia Superior Court received the case.

According to the complaint, police rescued 17 workers, including three juveniles, from a Brazilian coffee farm in 2022 after they were forced to labor outside without protective gear and hoist 130-pound sacks of coffee. Repórter Brasil, a workers' rights and environmental news group, covered the case.

Starbucks claimed Wednesday it knew nothing about the matter. “We take allegations like these extremely seriously and are actively engaged with farms to ensure they adhere to our standards,” the business added.

A 2023 BBC investigation on the James Finlay tea estate in Kenya revealed extensive sexual exploitation and harsh labor conditions, according to the complaint. Starbucks stopped buying tea from James Finlay's plantation on Wednesday.

Starbucks buys 3% of global coffee. Company claims 400,000 farmers in over 30 countries. Starbucks has ethical sourcing rules since 2004 and engages third parties to check supplier conditions. The firm prohibits child labor and requires farmers to create a safe, fair, and compassionate workplace.

Starbucks is deceiving customers by not disclosing that its certification scheme doesn't ensure ethical sourcing, according to the National customers League. The organization wants the court to ban Starbucks' false advertising and order a correction campaign.

The group said in its court filing that Starbucks' failure to reform its coffee and tea sourcing practices in the face of these critiques and documented labor abuses on its source farms is wholly inconsistent with a reasonable consumer's understanding of ‘committed to 100% ethical’ sourcing.

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