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Starbucks Sustainability Report: Water Consumption Up 5%, Energy Use Drops 4.5%

Starbucks increased its water consumption by 5 percent year-on-year in 2011, according to the company’s latest sustainability report.

The coffee giant has set a goal of reducing its water consumption by 25 percent in its company-owned stores by 2015, against a 2008 baseline. As of 2011, the company had cut water consumption by 17.6 percent against 2008 figures, but from 2010 to 2011 the figure increased 5 percent. Starbucks attributes the rise primarily to a change in blender pitcher rinsing processes, and says it is taking steps to address the issue.

The company is also planting drought-resistant native species in its landscaping in an effort to cut water consumption.

Starbucks cut the energy consumption in its U.S. and Canada company-owned stores from 6.58 kWh per square foot, per store, per month in 2010 to 6.29 kWh in 2011, a decrease of 4.5 percent year on year, according to the report.

The company has decreased its per-square-foot energy use by 7.5 percent since 2008 and, as such, says it is on track to meet its 2015 goal of a 25 percent decrease in energy use per square foot, per store, per month.

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Starbucks completed energy-saving LED lighting installations in more than 7,000 stores in Canada, China, Germany, the U.K and the U.S. through 2011. It is also planning to install LED-lighted signage.

In late 2011 the company rolled out a large-scale pilot program to test energy management systems across the United States. This technology aims to reduce energy consumption by remotely monitoring and controlling heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment – the single largest source of energy consumption in its stores.

The company plans to purchase renewable energy equivalent to 100 percent of the power used in its company-owned stores worldwide by 2015. In 2011 it purchased 873 million kWh of renewable energy, equal to 50.4 percent of the energy used in such stores. In absolute terms, the 2010 figure was an increase on the 580 million kWh purchased in 2010, while as a percentage of electricity used it was a decrease from 2010’s figure of 58 percent.

But the 2011 figure includes company stores worldwide, whereas previous years’ figures only account for North American owned stores. According to the EPA Starbucks is one of the top ten private sector green power purchasers.

The company has downgraded its goal for use of reusable cups. Starbucks’ original goal was to serve 25 percent of beverages served in company-owned stores in reusable, personal tumblers by 2015. In 2011 the company served 1.9 percent of its beverages in such cups, an increase of 0.1 percent on 2010 levels and up from 1.5 percent in 2009. Starbucks has modified the goal and is now targeting serving 5 percent of drinks in reusable cups by 2015.

In 2011, the company expressed an interest in the technique that Canadian chain Tim Hortons is using to recycle its hot beverage cups into take-out trays.

In 2011, Starbucks increased the amount of its company-owned stores offering front-of-store recycling to 18 percent, up from 5 percent in 2010. The company has a goal of offering recycling in all of its company-owned stores by 2015. It says it is on track to meet this goal.

See chart at bottom of story

In 2011, 79 percent of company-owned stores in the U.S. and Canada (where Starbucks is responsible for providing waste removal services) recycled cardboard boxes and other back-of-store items, the report says.

Starbucks has repeatedly said that setting up a company-wide strategy for recycling was being hindered by the myriad different approaches needed at the local and store level. Municipalities and landlords, Starbucks argues, are often the main drivers of – and obstacles to setting up – recycling initiatives, and these varied approaches hindered the company’s recycling efforts.

Last year the company held its third “Cup Summit” looking into the issue of cup recycling and, in conjunction with other businesses in the cup recycling chain, set up an alliance with the Foodservice Packaging Institute to form the Paper Recovery Alliance, a coalition of restaurant and food packaging industry leaders that will look into the issue.

Starbucks has pledged to make all its new company-owned stores LEED-certified. In 2011, the first year of implementing this goal, 75 percent of new stores built – 121 of 161 new buildings – were LEED-certified. Starbucks says that its LEED-certified stores generate 60 percent less construction waste and require less water and energy to operate. On average, the LEED-certified stores achieve a 30 percent reduction in energy used for lighting and 60 percent reduction in water use, against the LEED baseline, the report said.

Last year, 86 percent of the company’s coffee was sourced under Coffee and Farmer Equity (C.A.F.E.) Practices, which the company developed in collaboration with Conservation International, up from 84 percent in 2010. The standards use a set of more than 200 social, economic and environmental indicators, with farms and mills evaluated by third-party verification organizations overseen by Scientific Certification Systems.

The company says that this puts it on track to meet its goal of using coffee that is 100 percent ethically sourced – that is, third-party verified or certified, either through C.A.F.E. Practices, Fairtrade or another externally audited system – by 2015.

According to a recent report by Conservation International, 23.15 percent of agricultural land used by Starbucks suppliers was set aside as a conservation area in 2010, up from 22.86 percent in 2009.

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