Starbucks Wants to Cut Water Usage in Half by 2030

    The chain is deploying methods to reduce its carbon and water footprint at the farm level. 

    Sustainability | March 22, 2021 | Ben Coley
    Starbucks Pistachio Latte.
    Starbucks
    Last year, Starbucks sent nearly 600 eco-mills to coffee farms around the world, which resulted in up to 80 percent in water savings.

    Starbucks announced Monday that it’s committing to carbon neutral green coffee and to cutting water usage in green coffee by 50 percent by 2030. 

    The brand will address its carbon and water footprint at the farming stage—prior to transportation, roasting, or packaging. Starbucks acquires coffee from more than 400,000 farmers in 30 countries. 

    Carbon neutral green coffee will be achieved through three key ways, the company said. The first method is equipping farmers with “precision agronomy tools.” Starbucks noted that through its support centers and new soil scanning mobile app, farmers are able to use fertilizer more accurately, which helps decrease carbon emissions and increase farm productivity. 

    The second strategy is promoting and distributing climate-resistant tree varietals. According to Starbucks, these tree varietals are rust-resistant and help farmers grow more coffee on the same amount of land, thereby decreasing carbon emissions. 

    The final part of the plan is protecting and restoring at-risk forests in key coffee regions. Starbucks referred to land use changes and deforestation as the “greatest climate risks facing the coffee industry.” To combat this, the brand is partnering with Conservation International to invest in forest and landscape protections and restoration programs in coffee-producing countries like Colombia and Peru. 

    MORE: Starbucks Unveils Bold, New Sustainability Commitment

    Starbucks has a three-pronged plan to cut water usage by 50 percent, as well. One of the steps is investing in ecological wet mills, or eco-mills. To this end, the company acquired nearly 600 eco-mills last year, which were sent to coffee farms across the world. Those eco-mills resulted in up to 80 percent water savings in coffee processing. Starbucks is also aiming to make water processing technology and machinery more efficient and to develop water replenishment projects in coffee communities. 

    “As we celebrate 50 years of Starbucks, we are looking ahead at ways we can reimagine the future and continue to inspire and nurture the human spirit,” Michelle Burns, SVP of Global Coffee, Tea and Cocoa at Starbucks, said in a statement. “For farmers and their communities, we know it is critical we work together to address the challenges they face associated with climate change which are making it increasingly difficult to grow high-quality coffee. By reducing carbon emissions and conserving water, we can help farmers be more productive while we are also contributing to a better planet and bringing coffee to customers in a sustainable way.”

    Over last year, Starbucks launched programs in Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, Rwanda, and Kenya to test carbon and water strategies, and gathered more than 11,500 soil samples. Because of initial success, Starbucks is expanding the program to Colombia and creating a new holistic sustainability project. The program will provide 100 farmers in Nariño, Colombia, with hands-on support, including in-depth education, new equipment and facilities, and climate-resistant coffee seedlings. 

    The sustainability commitments come more than a year after Starbucks announced five strategies to become “resource positive” by 2030, such as expanding plant-based menu options, shifting toward reusable packaging and away from single-use, investing in reforestation, forest conservation, and water replenishment, finding better ways to manage waste, and developing an eco-friendly supply chain through store designs, manufacturing, and delivery.

    Starbucks will share its carbon and water footprint progress annually in its Global Environmental Social Impact Report.