Starbucks Becomes First Coffee Retailer in China to Invest in Replacing Water Used in Stores

In partnership with The Nature Conservancy, Starbucks China pledges to replenish at least 1.5 million tons of water annually to Qiandao Lake, beginning 2030

On World Water Day, Starbucks announced plans to become the first coffee retailer in China to pilot a water replenishment project to give back water used in operations. In partnership with global conservation organization The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the Qiaodao Lake Water Replenishment Project will improve water quality in the local ecosystem by focusing on sustainable agriculture and wetlands restoration, replenishing at least 1.5 million tons[1] of water a year by 2030, equivalent to about 600 Olympic sized swimming pools, enough to meet the annual water consumption needs of more than 23,000 people[2].

“As a coffee company, water is essential to Starbucks agricultural supply chain and store operations. We are committed to doing our part to protect China’s precious water resources. Working together with like-minded partners, our vision is to develop water replenishment into a viable solution, and inspire more parties to adapt it to other critical water basins across China,” said Julia Zhu, vice president, government affairs and social impact, Starbucks China. 

“We are delighted to partner with Starbucks to pilot the Qiaodao Lake Water Replenishment Project. Water replenishment is an innovative concept that holds huge potential for complementing existing water conservation efforts and contributing to advancing sustainable economic and environmental development in China,” said Xu Jin, Director of Corporate Engagement, TNC China.

Water replenishment is a nature-based solution where companies ‘give back’ the amount of water used in operations by protecting surface water against human pollution, allowing water from rain, storms and rivers to naturally ‘replenish’ the local ecosystem. 

The largest manmade freshwater lake in the Yangtze River Delta, Qiandao Lake is a vital water resource supplying potable water to 10 million residents in Hangzhou, Jiaxing and other neighboring areas in Zhejiang province. Traditional agriculture practices around the lake have led to increased soil erosion. Fertilizers and pesticides used also threaten the local water quality.

The Qiandao Lake Water Replenishment Project seeks to improve water quality through strengthening land management around the water source, while enhancing agricultural productivity. The project will work with farmers, providing toolkits around sustainable agricultural practices for three commonly cultivated crops in the area – pecans, tea and citrus – to help local farmers reduce soil erosion and surface runoff, while improving yield. With the support of academia and leading wetlands restoration experts, plans are also being created to restore two hectares of wetlands, equivalent to three standard size football fields. Restored wetlands will not only naturally filter off pollutants, but also comes with the additional benefit of enhancing local biodiversity.

The Qiaodao Lake Water Replenishment project marks Starbucks latest effort to reduce its water footprint to become a resource positive company. Globally, by 2030, the company is set to reduce and replenish water across its operations, packaging and agriculture supply chain by 50 percent, prioritizing action in some of the highest risk basins around the world. Come next month, Starbucks partners (employees) across the market will volunteer in water conservation activities as part of the company’s annual Global Month of Good program to serve local communities.

[1] Estimated based on 2022 pilot program by third party certification provider LimnoTech

[2] China Water Resources Bulletin 2021, Ministry of Water Resources, People’s Republic of China

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