Starbucks and Arla to trial new sustainable dairy sourcing blueprint in the UK

Image: Arla

Under the partnership’s pilot, 14 Arla dairy farms in the UK will be supported to reduce their environmental footprint and to improve animal health and welfare by both Arla and Starbucks, through a new sustainable sourcing blueprint.

Arla this year completed what it claims is one of the biggest analyses of data on Scope 3 (indirect) carbon emissions in the dairy sector, and this data, combined with Arla and Starbucks’ broader environmental research, will underpin the development of the blueprint.

Starbuck has stated that testing, improving and scaling the blueprint will involve three years of collaborative work with Arla UK. In time, the intention is that the blueprint will be used to support all of Starbucks’ dairy suppliers across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The blueprint will be verified by a third-party assessor and The Nature Conservancy is supporting both businesses in its development.

Dairy emissions notably account for 22% of Starbucks’ global carbon emissions annually, making dairy supply chains a key area of focus as the firm works to halve its absolute emissions by 2030.

The firm has already signed for its intent to support the Dairy Net Zero Initiative, which aims to connect end-user businesses with dairy farmers and other supply chain workers to roll out low-carbon production methods and improve water efficiency and stewardship. It has also moved to increase investment in dairy-free alternatives. For example,  all Starbucks stores in the US begun to stock oat milk this year. Stores already stocked soy milk and almond milk, but oat milk is regarded as more sustainable, as it requires less water to produce and has less deforestation risk.

As for Arla, the business is aiming to reduce emissions per kilo of milk produced by 30% by 2030, on the road to net-zero by 2050. It already believes that the carbon intensity of its milk is one of the lowest in the sector – the average dairy farm in its supply chain produces 1.15kg of CO2e for every kilogram of milk produced. For the most efficient farms, the carbon figure stands at 0.9kg. The Food and Agriculture Organisation’s global average is 2.5kg, for context.

“Starbucks and Arla share a commitment to upholding the highest standards in agriculture,” said Starbucks UK’s general manager Alex Rayner.

“As a farmer-owned business, Arla’s approach – including their cooperative principles – make them the right partner for us. Purchasing sustainable dairy is integral to our work expanding our environmentally friendly menu options while enhancing the Starbucks Experience.”

Arla’s group senior agriculture director Graham Wilkinson added: “Our carbon net-zero ambition recognises the importance of both lowering emissions and providing a helping hand to nature, but it is hugely important that Starbucks has also acknowledged the importance of taking a farmer first approach to deliver this.

“I hope it also provides reassurance to Starbucks customers to know that behind every cup is a combined effort to support farmers to run profitable and sustainable dairy farms.”

To Wilkinson’s point on profitability and farmer support, decarbonising dairy supply chains bears extra costs for farms – both upfront and ongoing. Arla UK notably hosts a programme whereby farmers are financially supported to undertake environmental R&D and to adopt more sustainable practices. The scheme is called Arla UK 360 and, in partnering with the dairy firm, Starbucks has committed to financially supporting this initiative.

Sarah George

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