Response to "Can Starbucks Buy A 'Saving Africa' Image for a Nickel?"

We sent our blog post on the Starbucks RED campaign to Starbucks last week and offered them space to publish a response. Here is their answer from Vivek Varma, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs: I suppose I should begin by thanking you for the opportunity to comment. It would have been nice to receive a call first so that the confusion in the Professor’s blog could have been addressed.

But let me layout the facts as we see them:

  • Starbucks launched its partnership with (PRODUCT) RED in December 2008 with a selection of beverages that contributed five cents to the Global Fund from each drink purchased. All beverages turned (RED) on World AIDS Day and the company has since introduced the STARBUCKS (PRODUCT) RED Card, which contributes five cents from every purchase to the Global Fund. Starbucks has a multi-year relationship with (RED) and will introduce various (RED) products throughout that time.
  • Your estimation of (RED) revenues generated is wrong. The fact is Starbucks has more than 12,000 stores in the U.S. and Canada and the (Starbucks) RED website and barista analysis has led you to an inaccurate conclusion of how many people have bought Starbucks (PRODUCT) RED products. As of March 2009, Starbucks customers have generated contributions equal to approximately 4.2 million daily doses of antiretroviral medicine through the purchase of select (Starbucks)RED products.
  • To date, (PRODUCT) RED partners and events, including Starbucks, have generated over $130 million for the Global Fund to invest in AIDS programs in Africa. One hundred percent of this money is channeled to Global Fund-financed grants – no overhead is taken out.
  • It is important to consider the collective power of these contributions since each partner brings something different to the table. Larger brands, with lower price point items, will garner more volume while smaller brands may help spread the message to niche audiences and new consumers, all the while raising money and expanding the base of people who are aware of the crisis of AIDS in Africa and willing to do something about it.
  • While you call for Starbucks to report its results independently, The Global Fund reports contributions on an aggregate, not per partner, basis. You can always view aggregate contributions on the Global Fund web site at under pledges and contributions.

I hope this gives proper context to the Starbucks (RED) partnership. I must say it’s disappointing to read the Professor’s cynicism about NGOs and corporations that attempt to contribute to the crisis of AIDS in Africa. We can all do more, of course, but this particular blog is a miss.