Consumers to Starbucks: Hold the Deforestation, Please

In honor of Global Tiger Day, concerned consumers around the world today called on Starbucks to earn its stripes and eliminate deforestation and exploitation from its global supply chain. Consumer advocates say that Starbucks has delayed meaningful action on palm oil to match the progress it has made in the sustainability of its coffee supply chain. In the past year, fast-food industry competitors such as Dunkin’ Donuts, Krispy Kreme and McDonald’s have all committed to zero-deforestation palm oil sourcing policies.

Starbucks has made significant strides in recent years to ensure that its products – in particular coffee, tea and cocoa – are not sourced from cleared forests or exploited workers and communities. Earlier this year, Starbucks announced that 99 percent of its coffee is now ethically sourced, which it achieved by developing and implementing the Coffee and Farmer Equity Practices (CAFE), a third-party verified program for farmers to meet certain environmental quality and human rights standards. Yet Starbucks has yet to adopt sourcing policies that ensure that the palm oil in its baked goods does not contribute to deforestation, climate change, and human rights violations. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) gave Starbucks only 10 out of 100 points in its Palm Oil Scorecard earlier this year.

“One glaring hole in Starbucks’ sustainability standards is palm oil. The company doesn’t have policies on the books to eliminate the use of palm oil coming from deforestation, carbon-rich peatlands, and exploited labor,” said Miriam Swaffer, corporate policy advocate with UCS’s Tropical Forest and Climate Initiative. “If Starbucks wants to be a true sustainability leader, then it must adopt sourcing policies for all of its products that ensure the protection of forests and peatlands, which includes a specific timetable for implementation. Without such policies in place, Starbucks’ customers are left wondering whether their morning scone is linked to the destruction of rainforests and tiger habitat.”

This week, in response to growing consumer pressure, Starbucks updated its Sustainable Palm Oil statement, saying that the company supports a “zero-tolerance approach to deforestation.” However, the company continues to fail to address consumer concerns and supply chain risk because their statement does not cover their global operations, just company owned stores. Additionally, Starbucks’ plans to engage the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and “other industry stakeholders” does not go far enough to ensure that their global supply chain is not linked to violations such as those documented in Sunday’s Wall Street Journal investigation of human rights abuses on plantations in Malaysia.

“We’re encouraged by Starbucks’ response so far, which includes an update to its palm oil statement. But Starbucks need to move beyond warm words and make a firm commitment: a time-bound, zero-deforestation policy that covers all its commodities,” said Fatah Sadaoui, campaigner with SumOfUs.org. “Nearly 200,000 concerned citizens from around the world have called on Starbucks, the world’s largest coffee chain, to go deforestation-free. Starbucks has a real opportunity to make a huge difference for the rainforests of Southeast Asia, and the people and animals who call them home.”

Over the past two years, dozens of major brands and global commodity traders have responded to consumer and investor demand for increased sustainability by adopting No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation sourcing policies. In the past year alone, several of Starbucks’ major competitors in the fast-food breakfast and coffee industry have gone beyond the RSPO with such commitments for palm oil.

“If companies like Dunkin’ Donuts, Krispy Kreme and McDonald’s can use responsible palm oil that doesn’t come at the expense of forests, endangered species or local communities, then why can’t Starbucks do the same?” said Ben Cushing, spokesperson for the Forest Heroes campaign. “Starbucks has become a sustainability champion for its coffee. Now their customers and the world’s last 400 Sumatran tigers are counting on them to take deforestation off the menu entirely.”

On July 29, 2015
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