Starbucks Corporation: Request for Report on Consumer Packaging

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WHEREAS: Starbucks Corporation has emphasized a commitment to environmental leadership yet failed to attain key environmental commitments. Starbucks continues to use mostly single use cups and service ware, despite growing concerns over ocean plastic pollution.  

Starbucks has been a leader in promoting a global “to-go” disposable coffee cup culture. Company straws, cups, and lids are prevalent in street and marine litter. 500 million plastic straws are used by Americans daily, including our company’s green straws, which are not recycled and can harm marine mammals and fish.  

Non-recyclable packaging is more likely to be littered and carried into waterways. In the marine environment, plastic straws and cup lids break down into small indigestible particles that birds and marine animals mistake for food, resulting in illness and death. Our packaging that degrades in waterways can transfer hazardous chemicals to animals and potentially to humans.  

Experts predict there will be more plastic than fish by weight in oceans by 2050. 

The company has said from its customers’ standpoint, the cup is its No. 1 environmental liability and pledged in 2008 that by 2015: 100% of cups would be reusable or recyclable, 25% of beverages would be served in reusable containers, and front of store recycling placed in owned and operated stores.  

The company has fallen far short on these goals. Most of the 4 billion paper cups it serves every year still end up in landfills because they are not recyclable due to a plastic coating that requires special processing, and lack of infrastructure to recycle cups. New coating technologies are available that could make cup recycling easier. Further, a Canadian media investigation found that significant numbers of cups meant to be recycled still ended up in the trash.  

After nine years, just 1.4% of all beverages are served in reusable cups. The company has given low priority to implementing its 25% commitment and now proposes to increase usage to just 2.8% by 2022, an alarming and unacceptable backtrack from the original goal. Despite pledging to promote reusable cups for both take out and on-site consumption, employees do not routinely offer reusables to customers dining on-site nor is signage generally provided to promote them.  

To get back on track, the company should develop a more aggressive, targeted, and comprehensive plan to realize its original goals. Senior management should prioritize this effort and motivate associates to implement it.  

BE IT RESOLVED: Shareholders request that Starbucks issue a report to shareholders, to be prepared at reasonable cost and omitting proprietary information, fulfilling its environmental leadership commitments by scaling up efforts through a comprehensive policy on sustainable packaging.  

Supporting Statement: Proponent believes that a comprehensive policy on sustainable packaging for Starbucks consistent with its environmental leadership posture includes at a minimum: making cups recyclable, ensuring that cups collected are actually recycled, increasing recycled content, removing plastic straws, and identifying a feasible path toward a scaled commitment to its original goal for reusable cup usage.  

Resolution Details

Company: Starbucks Corporation

Lead Filer: 
As You Sow

Year: 2018

Filing Date: 
October 2017

Initiative(s): Consumer Packaging

Status: 29.2%

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