(The following is a guest post by the University of San Francisco, in partnership with University Alliance. The University of San Francisco offers higher education opportunities through online master’s certificates, including supply chain management and sustainable supply chain management. To see additional information please visit http://www.usanfranonline.com.)
Over the course of its forty-year history, Starbucks has evolved into a company that aspires to be known as much for their commitment to social responsibility as they are for the quality of their coffee. This year marks the tenth year that Starbucks has publicly reported on the progress of their responsible business practices. What began with simple initiatives, like promoting the use of recyclable cups, now extends well beyond that.
So where is Starbucks today? The company has launched several sustainability-driven initiatives, which revolve around the following four areas:
Recycling and reusable cups
Coffee purchasing and farmer support
Energy and water conservation
Recycling and Reusable Cups
For many Starbucks customers, the white cup with green logo is an iconic part of the Starbucks experience – but is not seen as environmentally friendly. Through the use of in-store recycling, post consumer fiber (PCF) materials use in their packaging, and discounts for customers who use travel cups, Starbucks has worked to reduce the environmental impact of their disposable cups. They have also strongly advocated for improved recycling infrastructures internally- with a goal to develop comprehensive recycling solutions for paper and plastic cups by 2012 – and through industry trade group associations.
As part of their goal to make 100 percent of their packaging reusable or recyclable by 2015, Starbucks sponsored the Betacup Challenge in 2009 and again in 2010 – a design contest held to address the massive amount of coffee cup waste generated annually.
Starbucks is successful for more than just its work in the disposable paper coffee cup arena. The firm also prioritizes its involvement in communities where its stores are located, where its employees live, and where it finds its coffee beans. Starbucks seeks to develop that same environmental and community awareness in its employees, (known within Starbucks as partners). Currently, Starbucks’ goal is to mobilize employees and customers to contribute one million hours of community service per year by 2015. The business is especially dedicated toward encouraging young people to drive positive change in their communities through Starbucks Youth Action Grants and The Starbucks Foundation, a separate 501(c)(3) charitable organization.
Coffee Purchasing and Farmer Support
Starbucks is committed to buying and serving coffee that is responsibly grown and ethically traded, and ensures it does by following a comprehensive set of social and environmental guidelines. These guidelines include supporting Fair Trade farmer cooperatives, promoting environmental stewardship and economic stability in the coffee industry, supporting conservation efforts with forest carbon programs, and assisting small farmers with loans.
Green Buildings and Energy and Water conservation
Starbucks opened its first LEED®-certified store in Hillsboro, Oregon, in 2005 and plans to have all new, company-owned stores built to achieve LEED® certification by 2011. Inside LEED® stores, customers will find reused and recycled elements, like cabinetry made from 90% post-industrial material and paints with lower amounts of volatile organic chemicals.
LEED®-certified stores also have features that conserve water and energy, including:
Efficient LED lighting, rather than incandescent and halogen lighting
Remote monitoring of heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment to ensure efficient energy use
High-blast nozzles to clean pitchers instead of running tap water continuously
Low-flow valves throughout the store to conserve water
Starbucks as a Role Model for Other Businesses
In many ways, Starbucks has set a standard for sustainable business practices. The most daunting task in establishing a sustainable business is finding the right balance between cost and carbon footprint. Through their support of research and development, activism, and charitable contributions, Starbucks continues to drive positive changes that support environmental awareness and sustainability. They have achieved true harmony by decreasing both operating costs and environmental impact. Their innovative efforts inspire and enable other businesses to have a positive impact on the communities in which they operate.