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Mis-communicator of the Week: Costa

As we consume ever more coffee from High Street coffee shops we use ever more disposable cups - 2.5 billion every year is the latest estimate.

That is a lot of waste that has caught the eye of campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall who brought the issue to the attention of the public. He highlighted the fact that it is very difficult, bordering on impossible, to recycle these plastic coated cups with only two specialist recycling centres in the UK able to deal with the waste.

Fearnley-Whittingstall was particularly scathing of the chains who made bold claims about how "eco friendly" their cups were with Costa the worst offender. In addition the environmental campaigner and consumer champion called for "genuine progress” not just a “PR knee jerk response” to the issue.

In light of the campaign this summer various coffee chains have been seeking a solution. Last week Costa - the UK's biggest chain with 2,000 stores - announced what it claimed was a "groundbreaking initiative" that would help to solve the problem of coffee cups being sent to landfill.

Unfortunately, like a poorly thought through Budget announcement, Costa's ambitious boasts have quickly unravelled. Their initiative - to collect used cups in store for recycling - was claimed to be able to recycle 30 million cups a year. Sadly, in their press release, they neglected to mention that only 14 per cent of cups were recycled in their trials at stores in London and Manchester making 30 million a pretty bold claim.

What was a good story for Costa with weighty numbers based on a well developed strategy has instead turned out to be little more than the "PR knee jerk response" Fearnley-Whittingstall feared.

If only Costa had been a little more circumspect and followed a golden rule in communicating CSR initiatives - under promise and over deliver. That they did the opposite makes Costa my Mis-Communicator of the Week.

Mis-Communicator of the Week is written by Edward Staite.

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