Coffee giant aspires to become “Resource Positive”

In a letter to partners, customers and stakeholders, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson outlined the coffee giants new sustainability targets, including the aspirational multi-decade goal of becoming “resource positive,” giving more to the planet than the company takes.

Mr. Johnson writes that “sustainability has been at Starbucks core since the beginning and consistent with our belief that we can build a great business that scales for good.” He goes on to highlight some of the significant sustainability milestones Starbucks has achieved over the past several years, including sourcing 99% of coffee ethically through Coffee and Farmer Equity (C.A.F.E.) practices, and becoming a leader in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (L.E.E.D.) stores.

Resource positive

Starbucks long-term goal is to become resource positive, “storing more carbon than we emit, eliminating waste, and providing more clean freshwater than we use.” The company established 5 environmental strategies to begin moving towards this goal:

1. We will expand plant-based options, migrating toward a more environmentally friendly menu.

2. We will shift from single-use to reusable packaging.

3. We will invest in innovative and regenerative agricultural practices, reforestation, forest conservation and water replenishment in our supply chain.

4. We will invest in better ways to manage our waste, both in our stores and in our communities, to ensure more reuse, recycling and elimination of food waste.

5. We will innovate to develop more eco-friendly stores, operations, manufacturing and delivery.

Source: Starbucks

New 2030 targets

In addition to the multi-decade goals, Starbucks also set specific preliminary 2030 sustainability targets, including a 50% reduction in carbon emissions from operations and supply chain, conservation or replenishment of 50% of water withdrawal for direct operations and coffee production, and a 50% reduction in waste sent to landfill from stores and manufacturing. Starbucks will formalize these targets in 2021, the company’s 50th anniversary.

A broad ESG awakening?

Starbucks’ aspirational goals appear to be part of a sustainability awakening in corporate America. As we have reported at ESG Today, in the past few weeks, several companies have publicly announced similar ESG-boosting measures. Last week, Microsoft established a new target to become “carbon-negative” by 2030, and investment giant BlackRock announced a new focus on ESG at the core of their investment process. This sustainability momentum will likely continue, driven by mounting pressure on companies from investors and consumers.