Some of the world’s best coffee is grown in Ethiopia, where the livelihoods of 1.5 million small farmers depend on selling their superior beans at a fair price. But in the late 1990s and early 2000s, prices in the global coffee market plummeted. To gain some premium pricing, the Ethiopian government sought to trademark the names of its coffee regions, but the coffee giant Starbucks stood in the way. Oxfam America, the small NGO which was challenging the “rigged rules” of international trade, created its first corporate campaign against Starbucks to press the company to grant Ethiopia and its poor farmers trademarks. The case examines this “David and Goliath” battle.
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