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Starbucks Shifting to 100% Sustainable Palm Oil Sources by 2015

Image credit: Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research

Starbucks will begin sourcing 100 percent of its palm oil from certified sustainable suppliers by 2015, according to a recent announcement.

The coffee company made the change in response to a shareholder resolution filed by the Green Century Balanced Fund, a mutual fund concerned with environmental responsibility. 

“Shareholders needed Starbucks to address the business risks associated with sourcing conventional palm oil and it has delivered,” said Leslie Samuelrich, Senior Vice President of Green Century. “As the pace of global warming has accelerated, we are pleased Starbucks has decided to curb the increasingly apparent and threatening impact that global warming has on our lives and planet.” 

Palm oil is used in roughly half of all consumer goods, including body lotion and lipstick. In the last ten years, palm oil imports to the U.S. have increased by nearly 500 percent. Palm oil growers cut down and burn surrounding rainforests to make room for planting oil palm, releasing greenhouse gases that catalyze climate change. Environmental groups such as the Rainforest Action Network have recognized conventionally grown palm oil as a growing environmental issue due to its role in accelerating climate change.

About 85 percent of palm oil is grown in Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea on industrial plantations that can have severe impacts on the environment, forest peoples and the climate. Other consumer demands, such pulp for paper, have also put a major strain on forests in the tropics. Paper supplier Asia Pulp & Paper recently suspended forest clearance in its Indonesian operations in response to stakeholder backlash.

Starbucks has agreed to join several other brands, including Unilever, Nestlé, P&G and General Mills, to become a member of the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil, a not-for-profit, market-led association representing stakeholders from seven sectors of the palm oil industry to develop and implement global standards for sustainable palm oil. The stakeholders include oil palm producers, palm oil processors or traders, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, banks and investors, environmental or nature conservation NGOs and social or developmental NGOs. 

The move to sustainable palm oil sourcing comes as part of Starbucks’ greater effort to make its global operations more sustainable. Earlier this year, Starbucks introduced a $1 reusable coffee cup in an effort to reduce waste and increase customer adoption of reusable cups.

@Bart_King is a freelance writer and communications consultant. @mikehower contributed.

Bart King is the principal and founder of New Growth Communications, a network of affiliated content producers and strategists serving clients in the emerging green economy. Follow him @bart_king and on LinkedIn.

[Read more about Bart King]

Mike Hower is Marketing Communications Manager at Carbon Lighthouse. With a background on both sides of the communications podium — as a journalist and strategic communicator — he is committed to helping organizations address climate change through sustainability innovation. Previously,…
[Read more about Mike Hower]

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