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Starbucks Tackles Green Goals Except One: Recycling

From buying green power to reducing the amount of water it uses, Starbucks is on track to meet the majority of its long-term environmental goals, the coffee giant said Monday.

Starbucks made gains in green building, water and energy use, ethical sourcing and helping farmers reduce deforestation, the company said in its 2009 Global Responsibility Report. It lagged, however, in one high-profile area: recycling.

The company rated its progress on three recycling goals as "Needs improvement." The goals involve developing a comprehensive recyclable cup by 2012, implementing front-of-store recycling in company-owned stores, and serving a quarter of beverage made in-store in reusable vessels, both by 2015.

"One of the significant challenges we're facing is a wide variance in municipal recycling capabilities," Starbucks said in the report. "This inconsistency makes it difficult for a company like ours, with more than 16,000 retail locations around the globe, to efficiently and effectively implement a recycling strategy."

To date, the company has introduced front-of-store recycling to 399 of its 7,529 locations, and increased use of tumblers or serverware to 1.5 percent. It also convened a summit to identify the steps needed to make its cups recyclable in form and in practice, and launched a pilot program in New York to test different types of waste stream collection.

The packaged drinks Starbucks sells in retail establishments were the subject of a recent shareholder vote. Activist shareholders filed a resolution aimed at getting Starbucks to set a recycling goal for its bottled beverages received an 11 percent vote, which its filers considered a victory.

Starbucks wants to serve 25% of beverages made in stores in  reusable cups by 2015.

Starbucks made progress in other areas. It achieved two goals related to its coffee purchasing: doubling the amount of Fairtrade certified coffee and increasing purchases of Coffee and Farmer Equity (CAFÉ) Practices-verified coffee by 77 percent.

Starbucks cut its water use by 4.1 percent in 2009, keeping pace with its 2015 goal of trimming water consumption by 25 percent. This follows a well-publicized outcry over its use of dipper well systems to clean spoons used to produce certain coffee drinks, such lattes or cappuccinos. New manually operated hand-meters installed in its U.S. stores have cut water use by 150 gallons per store per day. The company said it is assessing how to roll out the faucets more broadly. {related_content} The company submitted formal plans to build or renovate at least 10 pilot stores around the world in 2010, putting it on track to meet its goal of achieving LEED certification for all new company-owned stores beginning this year.

Starbucks also worked with Conservation International in 2009 to conduct pilot programs in 29 coffee-growing communities to help increase farmers' access to carbon markets.

In terms of energy, the company's electricity use at its owned stores declined 1.7 percent in 2009, compared to the year before. Starbucks claims that this puts it on track to meet its 2010 goal of reducing energy use 25 percent below 2008 levels because it is "projecting a considerable reduction following global implementation of our LED conversion in 2010."

The LED conversion began in 2009; by September, more than 1,000 store have undergone the retrofit. The LEDs were developed in partnership with GE to fit existing fixtures and complement Starbucks' store design approach.

The company boosted spending on renewable energy certificates to 25 percent of the electricity used in its stores, halfway to its 2010 goal of 50 percent.

Image CC licensed by Flickr user visualpanic.

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