In a public letter, citing the company’s enduring mission to inspire and nurture the human spirit, Starbucks chief executive officer Kevin Johnson has announced a multi-decade commitment to be a resource-positive company, aspiring to give more than it takes from the planet. The announcement included science-based preliminary targets for the reduction of carbon emissions, water use and waste by 2030, and outlined five strategies the company has identified to move toward them.
“As we approach the 50th anniversary of Starbucks in 2021, we are looking ahead with a heightened sense of urgency and conviction that we must challenge ourselves, think bigger and do much more in partnership with others to take care of the planet we share,” Johnson said.
The company’s aspiration is to become resource positive – storing more carbon than it emits, eliminating waste, and providing more clean, freshwater than it uses. “This aspiration is grounded in Starbucks mission,” Johnson said. “By embracing a longer-term economic, equitable and planetary value for our company, we will create greater value for all stakeholders.”
A comprehensive, data-driven environmental footprint of carbon emissions, water use and waste in Starbucks global operations and supply chain informed the five strategies to prioritize work:
- Expanding plant-based options, migrating toward a more environmentally friendly menu.
- Shifting from single use to reusable packaging.
- Investing in innovative and regenerative agricultural practices, reforestation, forest conservation and water replenishment in Starbucks supply chain.
- Investing in better ways to manage waste, both in Starbucks stores and in its communities, to ensure more reuse, recycling and elimination of food waste.
- Innovating to develop more eco-friendly stores, operations, manufacturing and delivery.
Johnson also outlined three preliminary targets for 2030:
- A 50 percent reduction in carbon emissions in Starbucks direct operations and supply chain.
- 50 percent of water withdrawal for direct operations and coffee production will be conserved or replenished with a focus on communities and basins with high water risk.
- A 50 percent reduction in waste sent to landfill from stores and manufacturing, driven by a broader shift toward a circular economy. To underscore its commitment to the circular economy, Starbucks is pleased to sign the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, setting ambitious circular targets for its packaging.
On Starbucks 50th anniversary in 2021, the company will formalize its 2030 environmental goals based on learnings between now and then. Specifically, Johnson noted, the coming year will involve comprehensive market research and trials to better understand consumer behavior and incentives to encourage more use of reusable containers.
Johnson noted the importance of Starbucks partnerships with others on its journey to be a more sustainable company. Advisors to the company have provided the following comments:
Sheila Bonini, Senior Vice President, Private Sector Engagement, World Wildlife Fund (WWF), said: “As the global climate crisis is fueling a new set of challenges for the planet, Starbucks has set an ambitious vision to give more than they take from our planet’s finite natural resources. This is exactly the kind of leadership we need to see from businesses—an opportunity to invest in their own future while making their global customer base a partner in this sustainability journey.”
William McDonough, CEO, McDonough Innovation, said: “I am inspired by Starbucks resource positive goals because commerce is the engine of change and these goals allow us, with constant humility, to create authentic Environmental, Social and Governance value. These goals also encourage us to innovate toward the dream of Cradle to Cradle: A delightfully diverse, safe, healthy and just world, with clean air, water, soil and power – economically, equitably, ecologically and elegantly enjoyed. Imagine…have a cup of coffee and the world gets a little bit better.”
Sander Defruyt, Lead of the New Plastics Economy initiative at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, said: “The New Plastics Economy Global Commitment unites businesses, governments and others behind a clear vision for a world where plastic never becomes waste or pollution, and the ambitious targets required to achieve it. Creating this circular economy for plastic will be a challenging journey, but by signing the Global Commitment, Starbucks is joining forces with more than 450 signatories to make it possible. We urge others to join them. By coming together, we can eliminate the plastics we don’t need and innovate, so the plastics we do need can be safely and easily circulated, keeping them in the economy and out of the environment.”
Mark Lee, Executive Director, SustainAbility, said: “It is encouraging to see Starbucks embrace a data-driven and team-driven approach to creating a resource positive future. Given their proven ability to tap into the passion and expertise of their partners around the globe, I am confident that they will succeed and that this will have a huge impact. Starbucks sustainability commitment is deeply embedded in their enterprise-wide strategies and in the hearts and minds of their leaders. Their most senior leadership was directly involved in the creation of this plan, and they did an outstanding job convening experts in the field in the course of its development, inviting them to help Starbucks dream big on what’s possible for the planet. This puts Starbucks in the vanguard of corporate sustainability leaders, and we hope more businesses will be inspired to develop similarly robust approaches to addressing the world’s most pressing sustainability challenges.”
Dr. M. Sanjayan, CEO, Conservation International, said: “This pledge to become ‘resource positive’ is bold and necessary – exactly what I’ve come to expect from Starbucks. For more than two decades, Conservation International has partnered with Starbucks to source coffee in ways that are good for people and the planet. Today, 99 percent of Starbucks coffee is verified as ethically sourced – but we have not rested. Now we are working to bring the entire coffee sector along to make coffee the world’s first sustainable agricultural product. This is what it will take to meet today’s challenges: bold vision paired with action that does not rest.”
Conrad MacKerron, Senior Vice President, As You Sow, said: “As You Sow and Trillium Asset Management applaud Starbucks commitment to undertake extensive research and testing on consumer behavior and ways to dramatically increase utilization of reusable beverage containers, and to set a new reusables goal within one year. Socially conscious shareholders hope the commitment to reduce waste sent to landfill with be a catalyst for new programs on reuse, recycling, and compostability in fast-growing developing markets.”
Ray Silverstein, vp of Store Development at Starbucks and the sponsor of Partners for Sustainability, said: “Starbucks commitment to sustainability has been a meaningful way for our partners to engage and support their communities and neighborhoods. With today’s announcement, we are even more energized to have science-based strategies to guide us in setting priorities and accelerating this work. Whether it’s reducing our environmental footprint in our stores, in our supply chain, or through our ability to engage our communities — we will have new ways to focus our efforts to make the greatest impact.”
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