Starbucks is launching the Starbucks Coffee Agronomy Company in Costa Rica in a bid to guarantee the quality and even supply of its coffee. The company also aims to support sustainable farming in the country  - a move that will improve its ethical standing in the eyes of many consumers.

The Starbucks Coffee Agronomy Company in Costa Rica is an initiative by Starbucks designed to protect coffee supplies and support growers. The role of this new institution is to "ensure the future supply of high-quality, sustainable green coffee from existing and potential sources in Central
America."

The international coffee market is a volatile one as fluctuations in the supply of coffee can drastically affect the profitability of worldwide franchise operations such as Starbucks. As well as affecting the bottom line, a glut of coffee can seriously affect Starbucks' ethical standing in the eyes of its customers. When the price of coffee at the plantation falls, and prices stay the same on the high street, coffee franchises are frequently attacked for exploiting farmers in developing countries.

It is partly to avoid this situation that Starbucks has set up the Starbucks Coffee Agronomy Company. Part of the company's role will be to support coffee farmers through loans, training and education on sustainability. It will also invest in regional social programs and protecting ecosystems. One of the most important aspects of the program will be to demonstrate a long-term commitment to coffee farmers and their families. The Seattle-based firm hopes to forge strong links between the company and individual farmers, thus protecting its supply and improving its image with customers.

Starbucks' desire to maintain a sound ethical position by supporting coffee farmers is a reaction to increasing demand for products that fit in with consumers' lifestyle values. The growing popularity of Fairtrade coffee is evidence of the importance of issues such as ethics, sustainability and
environmental protection to a large swathe of coffee drinkers.

Starbucks has been shrewd in its appreciation of the wider social issues surrounding its business. The launch of the new company will not only protect it from fluctuations in the supply and price of coffee, but also improve its image with ethically conscious consumers.