Starbucks Targets Cut in Emissions From Coffee Cultivation Chain

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Starbucks Corp. set targets to cut emissions and conserve water in the production of coffee it buys from farmers as it seeks to achieve its goal to store more carbon than it emits.

The Seattle-based company will take steps including distributing climate-resistant trees, working with growers to cut fertilizer use and restoring at-risk forests in key coffee areas. It may also buy carbon offsets to bridge the gap in areas where it can’t reduce emissions, ensuring supplies of unroasted coffee are carbon neutral by 2030. It also plans to conserve 50% of water in coffee production by then.

Sustainably conscious consumers are becoming more concerned about the social and environmental impact of their shopping basket, demanding more information on where their food comes from and whether it was ethically grown. Starbucks last year said it wanted to become a resource positive company, sequestering more carbon than it emits.

“I would articulate now a sense of urgency,” Michelle Burns, senior vice president of global coffee, tea and cocoa, said in an interview.

Starbucks is providing growers with a precision agronomy tools based on data from soil and leaves with the aim of decreasing fertilizer use, and as a result, cutting carbon emissions. It will also continue to distribute climate-resistant trees and work to protect and restore at-risk forests in key coffee areas.

The company will also invest in insetting strategies to tackle its residual emissions, meaning those that cannot be reduced by 2030. That may include buying “high-quality” carbon offsets.

Measuring emissions in coffee is a new area and studies vary greatly in their outcomes, depending on when and where they were carried out. While Starbucks doesn’t yet have a full picture of how it will achieve its 2030 target, it expects more solutions will come up during the process, following the same path of its sustainability project.

“In 2004, we did not have all the answers either,” she said, referring to the company’s sustainability project.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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