Starbucks likes to present itself as a company that’s a leader in making decisions that take environmental concerns into consideration. So it must have been a bummer in the boardroom when they figured out that they couldn’t meet one eco-goal that it was aiming for.
The plan had been to have 25 percent of all of its drinks served in reusable cups such as mugs and tumblers by 2015, offering customers a 10-cent discount for bringing their own coffee cup or tumbler. The Seattle Times hears that number has been downsized that goal to just five percent.
It's dismaying news for eco-conscious consumers and sustainability watchdogs, especially coming from a a company that holds an annual "Cup Summit" that invites "industry leaders (to) discuss innovative ways to make cups and food packaging more recyclable."
Starbucks outlines its recycable cup commitment on its website:
Reducing the environmental impact of our cups depends on the success of two interrelated efforts: developing recyclable cup solutions and dramatically increasing our customers’ use of reusable cups. Many of our customers are also working to reduce their own environmental impact even as we are. To help, we offer a 10-cent discount when customers use their own reusable mugs or tumblers for their beverages in company-operated stores in the U.S. and Canada. Customers enjoying their beverage in-store can also request that it be served in a ceramic mug where available. Every paper cup saved helps keep our forests intact.
Now, it's giving two reasons for scaling back its plans, the Times notes. Starbucks director of environmental impact Jim Hanna told the Seattle Times that “about 80 percent of the drinks Starbucks serves are ‘to go,’” so the company has decided to focus its environmental efforts on that crowd. Also, “the use of in-store mugs … was harder to track than tumblers,” which the company can track with a special key on registers.
And even though using mugs would cost the company more since it would then have to bus tables and wash the dang things, Starbucks is making sure that mugs are more visible to consumers in redesigned stores, the paper notes.
"That's an area where they have more control, because they can strongly encourage mugs and tumblers on-site," said Conrad MacKerron, a program director at the As You Sow Foundation, which has lobbied Starbucks on this issue, the Times reports. "If they really went to town on that, it could really make a dent."
Last year, the paper notes, Starbucks served 1.9 percent of its drinks in reusable containers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, a 55 percent increase from three years ago. It also “more than tripled the number of stores that offer recycling for customers — from 5 to 18 percent — in the U.S. and Canada.”
Tell us: Is Starbucks being pragmatic? Is a 10-cent discount no big incentive? Post a comment below.