Starbucks made the change in response to a shareholder resolution filed by the Green Century Balanced Fund, which describes itself as an environmentally responsible mutual fund. Green Century was concerned about the environmental practices used to secure palm oil for many of Starbucks’ food products.
The company has agreed to become a member of the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil, and work with Green Century towards delivery of the palm oil commitment.
Conventionally grown palm oil has become a high-profile issue because of the significant environmental degradation that can result from its cultivation. Typically, surrounding rainforests are cut down and burned to make room for planting oil palm. This deforestation releases massive amounts of greenhouse gases and destroys critically endangered habitats in Indonesia and Malaysia, Green Century says.
Companies that have purchased from non-certified growers have become the subject of NGO advocacy and media campaigns. Recently Unilever, Nestle, Procter & Gamble and General Mills all made commitments to sourcing sustainable palm oil.
In October, the UK government and 14 other industry groups and organizations, including the British Retail Consortium, Food and Drink Federation, and Seed Crushers and Oil Processors Association, pledged to source 100 percent sustainable palm oil used in everyday food and products by 2015. The pledge coincided with the World Resources Institute’s launch of two online mapping applications to avoid deforestation and help industry and government find sites for sustainable palm oil production in Indonesia, the world’s leading palm oil producer.
According to a report released earlier this month, support for environmental and social shareholder proposals at US public companies, such as that proposed by Green Century, more than doubled between 2005 to 2011. During this time frame, average support for these proposals grew from about 10 percent to more than 20 percent, according to the report by IRRC Institute.