Starbucks’ Contribution To Sustainability

Coffee beansPhoto: Robert Knapp

Starbucks has been around for 40 years. In that time frame, a lot has happened environmentally.

In the 1970s, energy markets and prices were in turmoil, R&D research for alternatives to fossil fuels did not impact significantly, and there were oil shocks. Expansion of the Federal R&D budget for energy research collapsed with oil prices, and there was a rapid build-up of power plants, plus the 3-Mile Island incident.

In the 1980s, energy use flattened out, but demand started to return gradually, China’s energy/GDP ratio improved greatly due to economic reforms, and energy use was cut in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe due to both collapsing and over-capacity of power plants.

In the 1990s, demand pressure on global energy markets from China, Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union decreased; Russia developed and exported its natural gas and petroleum resources; slow growth in energy demand continued; investment in further development of energy alternatives was low; more remaining oil resources were owned by state-owned companies; and international oil companies had less direct control over development of alternative resources.

CappuccinoPhoto: Essjay

Fostering Environmental Responsibility
However, Starbucks, appearing to be an agent of environmental protection, has been busy promoting responsible environmentalism by minimizing their carbon footprint. Starbucks’s evaluation their infrastructure too has led the company to implement their own initiatives by dialoguing, building a foundation called Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP), collaborating with representatives supporting environmentalism, designing and constructing green storefronts and utilizing the conservation of natural resources within their operations.

Employees’ Evolving Commitment
Starbucks would like to inspire its employees who they refer to as “partners” with the company’s values. That means not just pouring a great cup of joe, but also helping to guide its employees’ commitment to environmental leadership. Starbucks engendered a program called “Earthwatch” that entails a few employees or partners being chosen to journey to some of the world’s coffee-producing areas, thus experiencing and acquiring firsthand knowledge about issues concerning conservation and the environment from the developers.

Two employees/partners participated in 2003, five in 2005 and in 2008, eight employees/partners, and 20 customers journeyed to Coope Tarrazu, a coffee cooperative in central Costa Rica. This team contributed to research by gathering information regarding how farmers can secure environmental sustainability.

Social sustainability diagramPhoto: Johann Dreo

Design, Furniture and Sustainability
Starbucks tag their stores as “green”. However, there is more going on than just outside construction reflecting their mission to raise environmental consciousness. They are also designing “green” inside their stores to incorporate furniture that is sustainable, cabinets built of 90% post-industrial material, tiles that are recyclable, paints containing low volatile organic chemicals and better efficiency lighting. Even the temperature inside stores is being regulated to conserve energy.

Beans to Coffee
Agricultural methods are organic, for example the avoidance of petrochemical-based fertilizers and insecticides, which is beneficial to the environment. The company works to support efforts helping coffee plantation owners maintain good water quality. A line of organic coffee would probably catapult the company over the fence.

When you bring in your own mug, do you realize that you receive a .10% discount on your coffee? This effort is to promote more conservation and environmentalism among the company’s customers. Starbucks wants everyone to do their part to help our environment. So don’t forget that reusing coffee bags effects the same discount. The coffee cups are non-toxic and recyclable.

More Is Needed
Minimization is one of the keys to improving our environment but not when it comes to what Starbucks and others can do to continue to inspire and contribute to greater impacts with research and development, innovation and technology, focused policies and growing activism. The need to continue to find ways to support people and measures aimed at creating positive change in the environment and educating populations to implement these changes is already imperative.