Starbucks journey to sustainable dairy
Updated May 2023
Today, Starbucks is launching a collaborative effort with dairy farmers and The Nature Conservancy to help refine and scale an approach to sustainable dairy and environmental stewardship for the betterment of people, planet and animals.
Supporting the long-term health of the dairy industry is the latest effort in Starbucks commitment to a resource positive future – giving more than we take from the planet.
Since Starbucks introduced its first handcrafted beverage, the Caffè Latte, in 1984, cow’s milk has been an integral ingredient for the company. And while Starbucks will continue to expand plant-based menu options, dairy is part of more than half of Starbucks core beverage offerings.
At the same time, dairy is the biggest contributor to Starbucks carbon footprint and the second highest contributor to water withdrawal. To reach our planet positive goals, we must innovate and work with others to source dairy responsibly and sustainably.
“As a company that works with and relies on the farming community every day, it’s our responsibility to help drive solutions that support both people and our planet,” said Kelly Bengston, Starbucks Chief Procurement Officer. “We hope to combine the best knowledge and resources to help farmers increase their productivity, quality and profitability while decreasing their environmental footprint. More than anything, our success depends on how we work together.”
Collaborating with farmers to support a sustainable future is work we’ve done before. In 2004, Starbucks introduced Coffee and Farmer Equity (C.A.F.E.) Practices, Starbucks approach to ethical sourcing. Developed with Conservation International, these guidelines provide comprehensive social, environmental, and economic criteria that if followed, can help sustain and strengthen communities that grow coffee while maintaining Starbucks high-quality standards, now and into the future.
Just as with our coffee, Starbucks goal is for the dairy we buy to be produced under high quality, sustainable and responsible practices. With the same collaborative spirit that inspired our C.A.F.E. Practices nearly two decades ago, Starbucks will learn from and work with dairy farmers and The Nature Conservancy to refine and scale our collaborative approach.
“Starbucks and The Nature Conservancy have a shared commitment to a more regenerative, lower-emission dairy industry,” says Stewart Lindsay, Managing Director, Corporate Engagement at The Nature Conservancy. “Starbucks has set compelling goals, and we look forward to working with the company, with producers, and with other partners to achieve better outcomes for people, animals, and the planet.”
The Nature Conservancy is a global environmental nonprofit that has grown to reach 75 countries and territories. Their team consists of more than 400 scientists on staff dedicated to addressing our planet’s biggest challenges: climate change and biodiversity loss. They have a long history of working with the agriculture industry – from farmers to ranchers – to advance conservation and promote climate and water smart practices.
Read on for an at-a-glance look at milestones in Starbucks journey to sustainable dairy:
Piloted key aspects of a new Sustainable Dairy Program in the United States, China and U.K. company-operated markets to help refine and scale an approach to sustainable dairy and environmental stewardship for the betterment of people, planet and animals. These markets focused primarily on baselining GHG emissions on several dairy farms within their supply chains and piloted key aspects of a new on-farm holistic standard. Insights from these pilots will be applied in FY23 and FY24 as the program rolls out to several global markets.
Launches our first on-farm pilot through U.S. Dairy Net Zero Initiative with Alliance Dairy, a farm that is woman-owned and operated, and has a strong record of sustainability, including water reuse and converting methane into biogas. Alliance Dairy was an early adopter and has been producing renewable energy from manure since 2012. As part of this pilot, a full suite of technologies, like evaporative nutrient recovery, will be explored with the goal of helping Alliance Dairy to become a source of renewable and organic fertilizer and water reuse, while significantly reducing GHG emissions.
Begins work with Agolin in the U.S. to source milk from cows fed Agolin Ruminant, a plant-based feed additive certified by the Carbon Trust to improve feed efficiency and reduce enteric methane, ultimately reducing dairy’s carbon footprint while also helping dairy farmers increase financial returns.
Starbucks UK launches a pilot with Arla cooperative farmers around the UK. The program seeks to identify innovative new farming practices to help reduce the emissions associated with dairy production that can be scaled across Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA).
Announces a collaboration with The Nature Conservancy to help refine and scale Starbucks collaborative approach to sustainable dairy and environmental stewardship. This foundational effort includes working with farms and co-ops in Starbucks supply chain to perform baseline assessments against social and environmental practices that we believe can help propel the industry towards a more sustainable future – helping to reduce emissions and protect water resources.
Joins the U.S. Dairy Net Zero Initiative (NZI), a partnership of the U.S. dairy community seeking to enable progress toward the industry’s goals of achieving greenhouse gas neutrality and improvements in water quality on farms. Through a $10m investment, Starbucks is providing more farmers access to effective environmental and economically viable practices and technologies – from feed production to manure handling, cow care and on-farm energy efficiency.
Joins the Farm Powered Strategic Alliance as a founding member, repurposing food waste in Starbucks supply chain into renewable energy via farm-based anaerobic digesters. The process produces low carbon fertilizer that host farms use to support regenerative agriculture practices, while Starbucks, in turn, helps contribute to a low carbon economy.
Invests $100m in Valor Siren Ventures, a growth driver for the next generation of food and retail start-up technology companies like Blue Ocean Barns – which is focused on curbing methane emissions through all-natural feed additives.
Photos courtesy of Alliance Dairy