INHABITAT: Starbucks is aiming to purchase renewable energy equivalent to 100% of the electricity used in global company-owned stores by 2015 – how are you going about this?
Ben: We use LEED Certified Renewable Energy Credits (RECs), in the past year primarily Wind RECs. Last year our aim was to have 50% of our energy in the U.S. and Canada come from renewable energy sources, and we changed that goal to 100% of our energy globally – so all of our company owned stores would be powered by renewable energy. The EPA has said that we’re the seventh largest private purchaser of renewable energy in the U.S.
INHABITAT: Water usage is a huge issue in food and beverage industry, and in your report you outlined that water usage increased by 5% last year. What steps is the corporation taking to try to reduce water usage?
Ben: Even though we took one step backwards this past year, we feel like we’re pretty far down the line in identifying things we can do to reduce water usage as we look behind the bar and look at all the water related activities going on. We’re working closely with suppliers to get more water efficient technologies in our stores.
Concern for — and awareness of — water scarcity is broad, especially if you look at the markets where Starbucks is located. I think there’s a lot of technology innovation potential in this particular area, and we’re seeing very receptive supply chain partners in addressing water issues.
INHABITAT: Packaging is another major concern for food and beverage industry, and the paper cup is a ubiquitous identifier for a coffeehouse. You recently reduced your goal from serving 25% of coffee in reusable or recyclable cups by 2015 to 5%, what was the reasoning behind this reduction?
Ben: We thought we could reach our goal of 25 percent of all beverage cups because, on average, 20 percent of our business stays in store. If we could capture all of that in ceramics, then we could make up the 5 percent from consumers bringing their own cups. What we learned in the last few years was that the impact on store operations to ask every single customer if they wanted a ceramic cup was not something that helped the overall customer experience.
We’re not walking away from the use of ceramics at all, they’re right behind the barista and there’s very visible cues for the customer to opt to use ceramics. What we’re going to focus on measuring instead is the piece that we are already tracking — the number of times we give a discount to a customer who brings their own mug.
There’s also a very strong consumer interest in having our cups be recyclable and making recycling available. We’ve had back of house recycling in our stores for at least a decade, and that includes things like milk jugs and other things we generate behind the bar. But the front of house recycling has really had high customer interest.
INHABITAT: What does the future hold for Starbucks Sustainability Plan? Where do you see the companies Sustainability Goals heading after 2015?
Ben: I think we’ll see new revolutions to address sustainability issues. I think we’ll see new levels of understanding at a time when governments are pressed for resources. You’re seeing new levels of understanding of what the roles of corporations are in addressing some of these massive societal issues whether it’s climate change, food scarcity, water scarcity. I think there’s a new openness to how companies perceive themselves and what they can do to address these issues and that’s very exciting to me.