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Starbucks announces sustainability commitment to be ‘resource positive’ by 2030

Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson has announced the company’s renewed focus on sustainability, with “a bold, multi-decade aspiration to become resource positive and give more than we take from the planet”.

“At Starbucks, we live our mission of inspiring and nurturing the human spirit every day through the convening power of coffee,” Johnson said in a letter to Starbucks partners, customers, and stakeholders.

“As we approach the 50th anniversary of Starbucks in 2021, we look 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.”

By 2030, Starbucks will aim to reduce carbon emissions by 50 per cent, reduce waste sent to landfills from stores and manufacturing by 50 per cent, and will also conserve or replenish 50 per cent of the water currently being used for direct operations and coffee production.

Starbucks has released a comprehensive environmental footprint of carbon emissions, water use and waste in Starbucks global operations and supply chain. Created in partnership with Quantis and the World Wildlife Fund, it will serve as a baseline for measuring future progress.

“As we move forward, we will be transparent in reporting short- and long-term progress against our goals,” Johnson wrote.

Starbucks identified other key areas in which it can make big impacts by 2030, including:
• expanding plant-based and environmentally friendly menu options,
• shifting from single-use to reusable packaging,
• investing in innovative agricultural, water conservation and reforestation practices,
• looking for ways to better manage waste in stores and in communities,
• and developing more eco-friendly operations, from stores to supply chain to manufacturing.

Already, Starbucks has partnered with other organisations and invested in ways to bring sustainable practices to scale. This includes the Starbucks FoodShare program, NextGen Cup Challenge, becoming a leader in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) stores, investments in renewable energy, and a goal to eliminate plastic straws by the end of 2020.

It has also spent two decades – in partnership with Conservation International – to achieve the milestone of sourcing 99 per cent of its coffee ethically through Coffee and Farmer Equity (CAFE) practices. Starbucks says research shows that implementing CAFE practices over the years has more than halved what the company’s carbon footprint would have otherwise been.

“This pledge to become ‘resource positive’ is bold and necessary,” says Dr M Sanjayan, CEO of Conservation International.

“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.”

Starbucks says its employees are mobilising for change in increasing numbers. More than 18,000 have enrolled in an online Greener Apron course on sustainability and environmental stewardship in the last two years. Lisa Ference, a store manager in Arkansas, United States is among those.

“I feel certain that over the next decade, we will become the model for other companies seeking to become resource-positive as this is, in my opinion, also the pathway to sustaining our business in the long term,” Ference says.

Johnson says on Starbucks’ 50th anniversary, the company will formalise its 2030 environmental goals based on what it learns between now and then.

“Specifically, this year we will conduct comprehensive market research and trials to better understand consumer behaviour and incentives to encourage consumer use of reusable containers,” Johnson says.

“Working in collaboration with experts and advocates, this research will help inform aspirational and attainable reusability goals in various markets and globally by next year.”

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