Climate change disruption driving Starbuck’s sustainability agenda

The potential for the effects of climate change to directly impact on Starbuck's supply chain is the company's main driver towards sustainability, according to its director of environmental impact Jim Hanna.

Speaking at the Responsible Procurement & Supplier Engagement conference organised by edie and Sustainable Business, Hanna explained that a two degree shift in temperature, caused by climate change, could make large swathes of the planet’s coffee-growing farm land unsuitable.

“If climate change continues in the same path it is, we are going to see a significant risk to our supply chain. So from a business perspective that is why we are focusing on reducing climate change as a company,” he said.

In addition, Hanna said that although cost reduction was a key driver in Starbuck’s sustainability business case, it was also important when driving sales from a more ethically aware public.

“For one reason or another, our company creates an emotional response in people, so the opinion that stakeholders and drivers have of our company is essential to its success.

“Frankly, our supply chain, which we used to look at in a risk perspective, we now look at as an opportunity to tell a great story around the brand itself,” he said.

He added: “We cannot compete with our competitors if we do not have good integrity in our supply chain.”

Hana also argued that from a human perspective, it was important that farmers within Starbuck’s supply chain were treated ethically not just because of “altruistic reasons” but also for the “integrity of the supply chain.”

According to Hanna, 3 million people, mostly small farmers in developing countries, are currently employed in the global coffee supply chain market.

“Supply chain maintenance is an essential thing for us because we want to keep people growing coffee around the world. We don’t want them to start growing bananas or pineapples or some other crop,” he said.

Hanna also said that it was important that businesses did not become complacent and to ensure that in-depth research was carried out into supply chains so that firms were aware of their own footprints.

“We often get trapped in that place where we are just serving up platitudes to our customers and stakeholders. When we assure people that we are making a difference when we are not sure whether we are or not; that is how we get burned,” he said.

Conor McGlone

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