29% of Starbucks’ Shareholder Votes Support As You Sow Proposal on Plastic Straws, Packaging Reuse and Recycling


Media Contact: Cyrus Nemati, (510) 735-8157

Nearly a third of Starbucks’ shareholders at the company’s Annual General Meeting last week supported an As You Sow resolution asking the company to phase out use of plastic straws and develop aggressive plans to meet packaging reuse and recycling goals.

More than 29% of shares voted (271 million shares), with a market value of $54 billion, to support the proposal. This vote far exceeds the average support of 21.5% for environmental proposals. The proposal was presented on behalf of As You Sow by actor, filmmaker and UN Environment Goodwill Ambassador Adrian Grenier.

“We are pleased that a significant number of shareholders sent a message to management that its previous efforts to address cup reusability and recycling are insufficient and that stronger actions are needed,” said Conrad MacKerron, senior vice president of As You Sow. “This sizable vote indicates the seriousness with which shareholders view threats to the ocean from discarded plastic straws as well as cups, lids, cutlery and other food service items from quick service businesses.”

While the media often dismisses votes that receive less than 50% support as unsuccessful, proposals can have strong impact even with minority vote results. Following a 31% vote result on an As You Sow proposal at McDonald’s Corp. last year, the fast food giant later agreed to phase out use of harmful polystyrene cups and food packaging by the end of 2018, and to recycle packaging in all stores globally by 2025.

The proposal presented at Starbucks’ annual meeting had an impact even before voting results were complete. The day before its annual meeting, the company announced a $10 million investment in designing a more sustainable cup that can be recycled or composted globally, in an attempt to respond to one of the requests in the proposal. However, the company did not address phase-out of plastic straws or a strategy to reach its previous reusables goal set 10 years ago.

In 2008, Starbucks pledged that by 2015, 25% of beverages would be served in reusable containers, and 100% of paper and plastic cups would be recyclable at all owned stores. Today, less than 2% of beverages are served in reusable cups, and only 60% of stores have cup recycling.


As You Sow is a nonprofit organization that promotes environmental and social corporate responsibility through shareholder advocacy, coalition building, and innovative legal strategies. See our resolutions here.

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