Starbucks Fills Up Recycled Paper Cups

Nov 17, 2004
George Anderson

By George Anderson

Starbucks plans to use coffee cups with 10 percent recycled material in a step the company hopes will win it points with its environmentally concerned customers.

Jim Donald, who will succeed Orin Smith as chief executive of the coffee shop chain in March 2005, said the new cups are “part of a commitment we’ve always had to reduce our environmental footprint.”

Environmentalists are pleased by Starbucks decision but see it as simply a beginning.

Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, told the New York Times, “It’s a helpful start, but 10 percent recycled content is minuscule.” He said Starbucks could have used more recycled material but probably chose not to because it would raise the cost of the cup.

Others also suggest that Starbucks may be talking a better environmental game than it actually practices. Craig Minola, an environmental scientist at the Organic Consumers Association, told the Times that Starbucks heavily promotes its Fair Trade coffee but doesn’t always have it available for purchase.

“We’ve had people go into Starbucks stores and ask for Fair Trade coffee and the employees tell them they’d have to brew it,” Mr. Minola said. “You can get it, but you have to be pretty persistent.”

Ben Packard, Starbuck’s director of environmental affairs said the company is very active and takes issue with the criticism of Mr. Minola and others. “We do more than just Fair
Trade,” he said.

Moderator’s Comment: Is Starbucks commitment to the environment a positive for the business? Does the criticism by
some that the company is not really a steward of the environment represent a threat to Starbucks’ reputation and future growth?

George Anderson – Moderator

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