SEATTLE, WASHINGTON—Actor, filmmaker and UN Environment Goodwill Ambassador Adrian Grenier presented As You Sow’s shareholder resolution Wednesday, March 21 at Starbucks’ annual general meeting asking the company to take bold action to reduce its global plastic footprint.
Specifically, shareholder Proposal #5 asks the company to phase out the estimated 2 billion green plastic straws it uses each year, which are non-recyclable and can harm marine life. This proposal will be presented against a backdrop of environmental action from Starbucks’ corporate peers in recent months. The resolution requests aggressive plans for Starbucks to meet its packaging reuse and recycling goals the company set nine years ago but has failed to implement.
“Investors should be concerned about the company’s lack of action,” said Conrad MacKerron, senior vice president of As You Sow. “Starbucks stands to lose a major competitive edge when rivals like McDonald’s make global recycling commitments. The company must also take seriously the considerable environmental damage that occurs when its plastic straws and lids are swept into waterways around the world."
Starbucks pledged that by 2015, 25% of beverages would be served in reusable containers, and 100% of paper and plastic cups would be recyclable at all owned stores. Today, less than 2% of beverages are served in reusable cups, and only 60% of stores have cup recycling. These commitments relate mostly to North America, however, Starbucks is rapidly expanding globally, opening one new store in China every 15 hours where waste management is lacking. Waste generated in China, India and the Philippines contribute 44% of all marine plastic pollution.
Grenier has been an outspoken advocate on the marine debris crisis personally and through his work with the UN Environment Programme and its Clean Seas campaign, directly supporting UN Environment Director Erik Solheim who stated this past fall that “we’re facing an ocean Armageddon.”
“Investors have a fiduciary duty to understand their portfolio’s impact on the environment and on our global communities,” Grenier said. “Starbucks has named the planet its ‘most important business partner,’ I aim to inspire the company to fully realize its partnership, which will not only ensure a long-term return for investors, but also for our environment. Our ocean is at a critical inflection point, we must come together in the spirit of radical collaboration and innovation to ensure a future with Clean Seas.”
Scientists estimate that about 4.8 and 12.7 million metric tons of plastic waste entered our ocean in 2010 alone. Straws are just one of a myriad of plastic products which add to this mounting waste crisis. Plastics do not biodegrade in the marine environment but instead slowly fragment into smaller and smaller pieces known as "microplastics," which have been found in the deepest parts of our ocean and are scientifically proven to be attractive sources of food to marine life. Regardless of the company’s vote on Wednesday, Starbucks will have to begin addressing its plastic waste starting in its hometown of Seattle. Following a campaign dubbed “Strawless In Seattle” produced by Lonely Whale, a non-profit co-founded by Grenier, the City of Seattle announced it will ban single-use non compostable plastic straws and utensils on July 1, 2018.
Click here to read the shareholder resolution.
Click here to read an analysis of the shareholder resolution.
Click here to read a related blog post by Conrad Mackerron.