Gallery: INTERVIEW: Arthur Rubinfeld & Ben Packard of Starbucks Discuss...

INHABITAT: How does building to LEED standards affect the bottom line of Starbucks and the bottom line of the stores built?

Arthur: I think it takes a great amount of leadership and consistency of delivering the message and driving it and driving it and driving it. A lot of people think immediately, "Oh, that costs much, much more." In the beginning, we could never quantify the return on the investment, but we had a good feeling that the return on investment would occur over the lease length. We generally rent spaces up to ten years with options. What we've been finding over the few years is, saving in energy in addition to what we're doing in water savings and attention to detail for energy conservation is actually giving us the returns that we had hoped for.

INHABITAT: When did you start the program to build all new Starbucks locations to LEED certified standards?

Arthur: We officially launched it in 2008. The company has a history of innovation in this area, of environmentalism and sustainability, and it was, in a very interesting way, seamless to the company’s mission statement of environmentalism, in that we have a “shared planet platform.” That’s what we named it, and it has three parts. The C.A.F.E. practices [C.A.F.E. stands for Coffee and Farmer Equity], which deals with how we work with the farmers in the origin countries, in terms of quality of yield and working with them to produce the finest beans in the world, what we do for their education system, for their quality of life in general, water supply, you name it. The second one is community involvement. We’ve announced that we are heading towards a million hours of all of our employees community involvement time. The third is environmentalism; it was sort of seamless to say this is an opportunity for us to use our global outreach and for all company owned stores to be designed and built to LEED certifiable standards.

INHABITAT: How many LEED certified stores do you have so far?

Arthur: Getting the certification takes time, but I would say we have well over 200 at this time. To be clear, every company owned store from the moment the site is selected is looked through a lens to be designed and built with sustainable methodology in order to obtain the level of LEED certification. We try to shoot for the highest levels, but depending on the country and where we are at, there are nuances. We don’t control the entire process because we’re leasing space, this is a big point of differentiation. It isn’t like we are building from scratch. We are actually leasing space in another location, a certain biosphere that is under the control of a landlord. The beauty of it is we’re educating landlords and real estate people worldwide in what leading energy and environmental design initiatives could be.

Ben: We actually started this conversation and joined the USGBC in the year 2000. Basically, LEED was designed with office buildings in mind. So the application of LEED to retail wasn’t an easy one. We chaired the retail development committee and helped the USGBC create LEED for retail, and now we are taking it to scale not only by applying it as Arthur said on leased spaces by using the [LEED] Commercial Interiors and the [LEED for] New Construction, but also then applying it across the portfolio. No other company is taking it to scale like we are by applying it in all those stores.

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