Starbucks Announces Ambitious Sustainability Pledge
Starbucks announced Tuesday an ambitious plan to cut its waste, water use and carbon emissions in half by 2030, reports The Seattle Times. The coffee giant's CEO and President Kevin Johnson revealed that the new sustainability initiatives would have five main goals: add more menu items that are “plant-based”; shift from single-use to reusable packaging; invest in new farming and forestry practices that conserve water; reduce material waste and food waste through better recycling; and develop more “eco-friendly stores, operations, manufacturing and delivery.”
Starbucks’ sustainability pledge would cover the full range of the brand's sprawling global operations, including the water consumed by its coffee suppliers, the climate-altering carbon dioxide emitted by the dairy cattle that supply its milk, and the waste produced at its more than 31,000 retail stores. The announcement comes as the global retailer undoubtedly feels growing pressure from both environmental activists and government regulations on waste and emissions.
Total Retail's Take: Although I'm thrilled to see a retail giant taking serious action to lessen its environmental impact, we've heard similar pledges before with little results. Additionally, consumers themselves are conflicted, now recognizing how their purchases affect the environment but not yet ready to give up convenience. For example, Starbucks has offered a 10-cent discount to customers who bring in their own containers to purchase drinks since 1985, yet “only 1.8 percent of our customers are taking us up on that,” said John Kelly, executive vice president of public affairs and social impact. On the other hand, one could retort that perhaps a greater incentive than a 10-cent discount (which meant a lot more in 1985 than it does in 2020) would entice more people to bring their own container.
Retailers are trying find a balance between pleasing younger, more eco-minded consumers while also still offering convenient and easy ways to do business with them. Kelly sums up this challenge, noting that it’s “one thing for Starbucks to do it, but we need the consumer to want it.” It will be interesting to see if Starbucks can achieve its goals by 2030. To do so, it will need its loyal customers to do their part and be willing to adapt to different "green" products and packaging.
Kristina Stidham is the digital content director at Women in Retail Leadership Circle and sister brand Total Retail. She is passionate about digital media and handles video, podcast and virtual event production for both brands. You can often find her at WIRLC, TR, or industry events with her camera and podcasting equipment recording interviews with retailers.
Kristina holds a B.A. in Media Studies and Production from the Temple University Klein College of Media and Communication in Philadelphia. Go Owls! When she's not in the office, she loves to go on long walks, sing around the house, hangout with her two pet guinea pigs, and travel to new places.