Starbucks in the grinder over water use

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 October, 2007, 12:00am


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Starbucks found itself in hot water again this week after a Beijing newspaper attacked the company for wasting water.

Two articles in the Beijing Evening News accused the company of being unaware of the city's water-saving guidelines due to its practice of setting taps on coffee workbenches to flow constantly.

The reports, published on Tuesday and Wednesday, estimated that each tap ran for 16 hours a day and that at least 100 tonnes of fresh water flowed each day from the more than 50 Starbucks outlets in Beijing, which suffers from an extreme water shortage.

The reports were soon picked up by mainland media and circulated on the internet.

The website even conducted an online survey that found about 90 per cent of 2,434 respondents considered Starbucks guilty of wasting water.

But Starbucks defended itself yesterday, claiming it was an environmentally friendly enterprise. The company said it was using a standard global practice and would not make changes for its China operations.

'Dipper wells are designed to have a constant stream of running fresh water to keep utensils clean between uses, especially preventing bacterial growth,' Starbucks said. 'In order to conserve water, the flow is kept minimal while maintaining a strong enough stream of water to effectively rinse the utensils.

'We consistently re-evaluate our equipment, store design and training opportunities to reduce our overall water use.'

Starbucks Greater China public relations manager Caren Li said Starbucks was 'aware of the situation and welcomes media supervision and public attention as always'.

She said Starbucks had informed its staff to try their best to reduce water flow according to their workload and added that it would conduct spot checks at outlets to ensure staff complied with the water-saving policy.

Earlier this year Starbucks removed an outlet from the Forbidden City following an outcry sparked by a mainland newscaster, who said its presence was a smear on China's historical legacy.