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  • Writer's pictureVipanchi Jain

Sustainability at Starbucks

Originally just a narrow storefront in the Pike Place Market in Seattle, Starbucks has risen to be one of the largest companies in the world, with more than 15,000 stores in 50 countries. Since 1971, Starbucks has been offering some of the world’s finest coffee to anyone who wants to pay the escalated price for a cup.

With a mission to inspire and nurture the human spirit, Starbucks has always looked to make positive connections and impacts on people and communities around the world.

What to expect today:

  • Sustainability at Starbucks

  • Starbucks - Path to net zero

Sustainability at Starbucks

Image Source: 2020 Report- Planet

In 2021, total greenhouse gas emissions of Starbucks had been 14.7 MMT, majority of it coming from scope 3 emissions.

Breakdown of Carbon footprint:

  • Scope 1: 3.9% of emissions

    • These are the direct emissions coming from their operations and facilities

  • Scope 2: 7.37% of emissions

    • Indirect emissions from use of electricity

  • Scope 3: 88.7% of emissions

    • These come from purchased goods and services, use of sold products.

Aiming to be resource positive

In January 2020, Starbucks announced a multi-decade aspiration to be a resource positive company, giving more than they take from the planet. This means storing more carbon than they emit, eliminating waste and replenishing more freshwater than they use. Microsoft is another company that is working towards resource-positivity through making carbon-reducing procurement processes through their supply chain - check out our coverage of Microsoft’s business here and data center operations here.

Starbucks is also supporting the Dairy Net Zero Initiative, a partnership of the U.S. dairy community seeking to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions and improvements in water quality on farms.

Dunkin vs Starbucks

We compared Starbucks to Dunkin. The latest report we could find from Dunkin was that of 2018 and that report only discloses Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions which we know in retail make less than 10% of total carbon footprint of an organization. We did not find any recent reports and hence are unable to compare accurately the two organizations.

In comparing Starbucks’ growth in the last two years we found that its emissions are increasing in line with its revenue which is not good. On the bright side it decreased its emission intensity when measured against revenue growth in 2021. In our previous editions we looked at the same metric for IKEA where in spite of increasing revenue IKEA is able to bring down its absolute emissions. (Check out our profile of IKEA)

Metric for Starbucks




Total revenue ($ bn)




Total emissions (MMT)




Emissions (MMT) / Revenue ($ bn)




Starbucks: Path to net-zero

Image Source: Photo by Mister Mister

In 2020, Starbucks joined the new “Transform to Net Zero” initiative as a founding member. Composed of nine founding members, the initiative’s objective was to accelerate the transition to a net zero global economy no later than 2050. In this section we will highlight three initiatives taken by Starbucks to achieve the path to net zero.

Moving away from single use plastics

As Starbucks works to shift away from single-use plastics and champion the use of recycled content in packaging, they are committed to:

  • Eliminate problematic or unnecessary plastic packaging by 2025

  • Move from single-use towards reuse models where relevant by 2025

  • Make 100% of plastic packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025

  • Use 5-10% recycled content across all plastic packaging by 2025

In FY20, they completed the rollout of strawless lids across the U.S. and Canada, which they modeled after their hot drink lid and has approximately 9% less plastic than the flat lid and straw historically used for iced beverages.

Green Coffee

Starbucks will work to meet its 2030 target of carbon neutral green coffee by sourcing coffee responsibly by deploying three primary strategies:

  • Decreasing carbon emissions in Starbucks supply chain by equipping farmers with precision agronomy tools

  • Promoting and distributing climate-resistant tree varieties

  • Protecting and restoring at-risk forests in key coffee landscapes

In 2020 to meet this initiative, Starbucks launched programs in Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, Rwanda, and Kenya to test its carbon and water strategies impacting more than 92,000 farms. In addition to investing in new, water-conserving wet mills, Starbucks worked with farmers to gather more than 11,500 soil and foliar samples to inform soil health.

Greener stores

In 2018, Starbucks announced the Greener Store Framework, co-developed with World Wildlife Fund (WWF), designed to accelerate the transformation of retail towards lower-impact stores that achieve reductions in carbon emissions, water usage and landfill waste.

As part of the initiative, the company has set 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 (equivalent to the electricity use of more than 30,000 homes per year) 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. Meanwhile, 90% of company operated stores have adopted waste diversion and circular practices, including recycling, composting etc.  

By 2021, Starbucks has expanded the Greener Stores network to a total of 2,779 certified stores in the U.S. and Canada and the plan is to have 10,000 Greener Stores operational by 2025.

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