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The Next Economy
Starbucks Commits to a Resource-Positive Future, Giving More than It Takes from the Planet

In a public letter to all company stakeholders, CEO Kevin Johnson sets 2030 science-based targets for carbon, water and waste as part of a multi-decade aspiration.

Hot on the heels of a similarly groundbreaking, industry-leading announcement last week from Microsoft, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson outlined today, in a public letter, a multi-decade commitment to become 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.

“Our aspiration is to become resource positive — storing more carbon than we emit, eliminating waste; and providing more clean, fresh water than we use. This aspiration is grounded in Starbucks’ mission. By embracing a longer-term economic, equitable and planetary-value proposition for our company, we will create greater value for all stakeholders.”

With the help of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Quantis, 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:

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  2. Shifting from single-use to reusable packaging — a transition it’s already begun through its fueling of Closed Loop PartnersNextGen Cup Challenge.

  3. Investing in innovative and regenerative agricultural practices, reforestation, forest conservation and water replenishment throughout its supply chain.

  4. 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.

  5. Innovating to develop more sustainable stores, operations, manufacturing and delivery.

Johnson also outlined three preliminary targets for 2030:

  1. A 50 percent reduction in carbon emissions in Starbucks’ direct operations and supply chain.

  2. 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.

  3. 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 a circular economy, Starbucks has signed onto 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, SVP of Private Sector Engagement at 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.”

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 at 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.”