Suspended coffee? I'd rather Starbucks suspend tax avoidance

We're too quick to forgive multinational corporations with a new PR trick

Share
Related Topics

Starbucks, wounded in the tax avoidance scandal, has partnered with Christian charity Oasis to make amends and sponsor a ‘suspended coffee’ campaign. If you haven’t already heard, a suspended coffee allows you to pay for a cup and leave it behind for someone who cannot afford a coffee for themselves.

Marketing magazine calls Starbucks’ campaign a way to improve its Corporate Social Responsibility credentials. At the height of the tax scandal, Starbucks’ market share dropped by as much as 7 per cent. In the same period Costa Coffee's market share went up 7 per cent.

My problem is not with the fact that the Starbucks avoided tax for so long. I let those infinitely more conscientious than me fight that battle.

My problem is with how quickly the rest of us forgive and forget.

The success of the Suspended Coffee phenomenon worldwide rests on trust, integrity and benevolence. Trust that patrons leave on counter tops around the world, integrity that baristas do not pocket the money, money that should go towards a cup of coffee and perhaps a croissant. Given its track record of less than honest corporate practices, Starbucks doesn’t deserve this virtuous shield on its CSR mantelpiece. Besides, first things first, they should pay that penitent £20m they promised HMRC last year.

No one needs coffee. A welfare state needs its taxes.

These days there seems to be a story almost every day on tax avoidance. We have to watch executives from Amazon, Facebook and Google deny any wrongdoing. We are virtually powerless to stop them because it seems our elected leaders are powerless too.

But what we shouldn’t stand for is this hijacking of spontaneous philanthropy by Starbucks. If we let it slide, soon our small gestures, our spontaneity and our tips for the counter will be as corporate and calibrated as each of Starbucks’ 806 UK shops.

Our gesture of goodwill will go towards an Americano for someone on the breadline, when they could much better do with facilities that extra taxes would have bought.

There’s another reason to shun this campaign. It allows us to continue ignoring the unfortunate. We may have good reason for not visiting Africa, where we might have part-sponsored a village school by buying a bottle of mineral water. After all, it is rather far away. But what excuse do we have for distancing ourselves from the needy on our doorsteps? By corporatising something as simple as a hot cup of coffee for someone on the streets, we distance ourselves from our deed of the day. It is instant karma with instant coffee.

Then there are more practical concerns. Consumerist makes an excellent case for why suspended coffees don’t work as well as Starbucks would have us believe. First of all chances are that a homeless person won’t be a regular Facebook user; they’re unlikely to know the campaign exists. Second, what if I pop along to a Starbucks and ask for a suspended coffee in the morning? Will I be means tested?

Yes, it's a fine thing that Starbucks matches the suspended coffee with a cash donation to Oasis, but the official scheme ends this month. To me, it looks no more than PR damage control, a fleeting fad. And it simply doesn’t wash.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Day In a Page

Read Next
George Osborne appearing on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, 5 July 2015  

George Osborne says benefits should be capped at £20,000 to meet average earnings – but working families take home £31,500

Ellie Mae O'Hagan
The BBC has agreed to fund the £650m annual cost of providing free television licences for the over-75s  

Osborne’s assault on the BBC is doing Murdoch’s dirty work

James Cusick James Cusick
Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created