Starbucks’ Ethos Water Fund comes up dry

By Veronica Figueroa
[email protected]

Starbucks donates $0.05 and $0.10 Canadian dollars per bottle sold to the Ethos Water Fund. Yes, a nickel for every $1.80 bottle. Starbucks had made a goal to have $10 million, for humanitarian grants, by 2010. It is now January 2011, and  they have only made $6.2 million.

“Due to a challenging economy and changes in Ethos Water distribution, Starbucks must extend the timeline to reach our $10 million contribution goal beyond 2010,” Starbucks’ Customer Care commented.

You’d think that if they choose to donate more from the earnings they make from the water bottles they would have reached their goal a long time ago. “We remain committed to our $10 million goal and to raising awareness of the world water crisis through the sales of Ethos Water,” said Customer Care.

In 2005, Starbucks bought the company called Ethos Water from Peter Thum and Jonathan Greenblatt for $8 million.

Thum worked in Africa for six months with McKinsey and Company, a global management consulting firm. During his time there, he saw the trouble people had getting sanitized water. It sparked his mission to help children get clean water. He partnered with Greenblatt, his business school classmate, and in 2003 they had their company.

In an article written by Melissa Allison for “The Seattle Times,” she writes that, “Ethos has generated more than $6.2 million to support water, sanitation, and hygiene education programs in Africa and Asia.” This statement is remarkably similar to an e-mail I received when I inquired about their goal. Melissa Allison’s article was written in 2008.

So is another year is going to have to go by for them to reach their $10 million goal? In the meantime, Starbucks will be pocketing the $1.75 it makes per bottle.

On the other hand, Scott Harrison began an organization called Charity: water. Harrison, a photojournalist, traveled on Mercy Ships, a humanitarian organization which offers free medical care in the world’s poorest nations. He visited Africa and was immediately humbled.

On the website,, it reads, “charity: water is a non-profit organization bringing clean, safe drinking water to people in developing nations. We use 100% of public donations to directly fund sustainable water solutions in areas of greatest need. Just $20 can give one person clean water for 20 years.”

As of Nov. 1 2010, Charity: water has raised more than $20 million and funded 3,196 projects. In just four years, they have made far more progress than Ethos.

So while Starbucks and Ethos attempt to drag on their project a while longer, Harrison and Charity: water are out making a difference in underdeveloped nations.