Starbucks Runs 66% of its Stores Globally With Clean Energy. The Goal is 100%

by | Jul 5, 2022

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(Credit: Starbucks)

Starbucks started as one coffee shop in Seattle, Wash. in 1971. Today, it has nearly 17,000 stores in 50 countries. The company has become a brand that connotes enlightenment and environmental sensitivity. But as it has grown into one of the world’s premier coffee stores, it has been challenged to deal with its carbon footprint, waste, and recycling. 

Its efforts to be a leader in the green movement began early on, but its goal-setting took foot at the turn of the century. It has set a science-based target to hit net-zero emissions by mid-century — to limit its emissions to prevent temperature increases of no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. To that end, it also aims to store more carbon than it emits, eliminate waste, and replenish more freshwater than it uses. 

“Our Planet Positive initiatives have a central role in our long-term business strategy, and directly address what our customers are asking for,” said Kevin Johnson, Starbucks former chief executive officer,” in the company’s sustainability report.  “We are moving toward a more circular economy, and we are doing so in a very intentional, transparent, and accountable way.” 

As such, Starbucks has sourced 100% renewable energy for its more than 9,000 U.S. and Canada since 2015. And it announced its intent to offset 50% of its company-operated roasting and beverage production site’s electricity consumption in the U.S this year. Meantime, it set out to make its stories as energy efficient as possible in 2001. Today, 2,779 Greener Stores are certified globally.

How is it going?

Its greenhouse gas emissions increased 1%, while its water withdrawals decreased by 11%. It says that it diverted 32% of its operational waste. Meantime, 24% of its packaging was reusable, recyclable, or compostable — goals it set in 2008.

But it realizes it must shift entirely away from single-use plastics. It also must invest in responsible forestry practices, working with those rainforest nations that seek to preserve their trees — the best way to soak up CO2 out of the air. To that end, trees cut down to make coffee cups must be replanted. 

It will continue limiting its waste while innovating to develop more green stories, operations, and delivery methods. 

“With performance-based standards that incorporate design and extend throughout the life of a store, Starbucks Greener Stores in North America have reduced energy consumption by 30% compared with the company’s prior store designs,” the sustainability statement says. “Additionally, state-of-the-art technologies treat and conserve water, reducing annual water use by more than 30%, saving more than 1.3 billion gallons of water annually.”

Starbucks set out to run its operations entirely on renewable energy in 2015. Today, that figure stands at 66% globally. Some countries like China and Japan make it challenging to buy green power, it says.

What are the chief obstacles?

Efforts to reduce single-use plastics have long been a problem for Starbucks. The company says that about 1% of its cups are reusable despite having set a goal to raise the number in 2016. What now?

“We plan to launch a new cup in the fall of 2022 that will meet our goal to include 20% recycled content in our hot cups. Currently, our hot cups contain 10% recycled content,” the report says. “We are also working to develop 100% compostable and recyclable hot cups by 2022. We achieved our goal to eliminate plastic straws.”

A story in the Verge says that Starbucks’ yearly greenhouse gas emissions are equivalent “to the pollution from almost 14 coal-fired power plants — nearly on par with other giant corporations like Microsoft.” The story also says that it served just 1.3 percent of its drinks in reusable cups in 2018, despite a decade-long effort to get its customers to switch to those they could recycle.  

A Harvard review says that the cups are made to hold hot coffee. They are made of “polyethylene plastic coating” to prevent leakage. That makes them hard to recycle. “Therefore, due to the use of plastic and lack of proper recycling infrastructure for the processing of these cups, most of them end up a landfill.” 

What are the goals now? 

In 2020, it revamped its goals — ones it seeks to achieve by 2030:

     — 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in Starbucks direct operations and value and supply chain. 

     — 50% of water withdrawal for global operations, packaging, and agricultural supply chain will be conserved or replenished.

     — 50% reduction in waste sent to landfills from stores and manufacturing, driven by a broader shift toward a circular economy. 

      — Investing approximately $97 million in up to 23 new community solar projects in New York State, which will supply solar energy to more than 24,000 households, small businesses, nonprofits, churches, universities, and Starbucks stores. 

“Starbucks also expanded its goal to conserve or replenish 50% of the water used in green coffee production in our direct operations to include global operations, agricultural supply chain, and packaging, increasing the projected water conserved or replenished and addressing some of the biggest impacts on Starbucks water footprint,” says the company’s sustainability statement.

Finally, Starbucks aims to better the communities in which it operates, including the farms from which it sources its coffee beans. Indeed, climate change is affecting those farms — compelling Starbucks to up its game.

For example, East Timor is a prominent coffee community bordering Indonesia — a place where 25% of the people have limited access to clean water. They have had to spend two hours a day traveling to where they can fetch clean drinking water.

As part of its commitment to a resource-positive future, Starbucks enlisted SOURCE Global to install 30 SOURCE Hydro-panels, providing enough clean drinking water for the village using solar energy to harvest water from the air. It did so in the village of Duhoho.

“We no longer have to fetch water from the spring, boil it and go searching for firewood. We can drink directly from the tap, so this reduces my burden greatly,” says Mana Dina, Duhoho resident, and business owner.

Editor’s note: Don’t miss the virtual Environment+Energy Leader Solutions Summit, July 19-21. Learn tangible, innovative solutions to the struggles you face every day. Speakers from companies including Kellogg’s, Estée Lauder Companies, American Family Insurance, Tillamook and many more will share tactics and lessons-learned that can help you solve your energy management, sustainability and ESG challenges. Learn more about the Summit here, or go straight to registration!

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