Photo by whatadqr via flickr
In a statement by Green Century Capital Management on February 21 2013, it was revealed that Starbucks is committing to sourcing only sustainable palm oil sources by 2013. This comes after Green Century filed a shareholder resolution based on concerns that the company’s current forest practices were increasing atmospheric greenhouse gases and destroying habitats.
From the statement: “Shareholders needed Starbucks to address the business risks associated with sourcing conventional palm oil and it has delivered. As an environmentally-responsible investment advisory firm, we believe that improving the environmental practices of the companies in which we invest may make them better long-term investments,” stated Leslie Samuelrich, Senior Vice President, Green Century.”
The Rainforest Action Network has noted that Indonesia, Malaysia, and Papua New Guinea collectively account for 85% of palm oil worldwide. Forestation practices in these areas contribute to habitat loss for endangered species (Sumatran tigers, Sumatran elephants, and orangutans), resource loss for nearby communities (destruction of forests and watersheds), and accelerate climate change impacts (normally, these rainforests act as carbon ‘sinks’ or storage areas).
Starbucks is not alone in this shift towards sustainable palm oil. It joins the roster of Unilever, Nestle, P&G, SC Johnson, General Mills, Mars, McDonalds, and Walmart – all which have made similar commitments.
Although this is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, some groups are concerned about how this action will (or will not) carry out politically. Concerns about how certification will be determined have been raised. Additionally, no information about this action has been released from Starbucks Coffee Company as of today. Will Starbucks thoughtfully implement these actions, or will this prove to be a PR initiative that does not change company practice?