Love them or hate them, actually most of us love them both, these two giants brands are getting greener by the year.
The trouble with being a large American corporation is that you are always going to be a target of left wing anti-capitalist groups, radical greens and anyone who wants to vent their inner anger at large American corporations.
As green as I am, I’ve actually always been a supporter of both brands (and not just because I’ve worked for Starbucks, though I’m still waiting for a McDonald’s brief!) because when they change their ways for the good it makes a really big difference.
Starbuck’s latest shareholder report is good green reading. They are aiming for 100% of Starbucks coffee to be “ethically sourced” by 2015. That means, for Starbucks, meeting their CAFE Practices standards. They have already reached 86%.
Ben Packard, Starbucks’ VP of global responsibility, pointed out that Starbucks is one of the top purchases of Fair Trade coffee in the speciality coffee market, though recently they are moving beyond the Fairtrade certificate to a broader scheme they feel will help and support more coffee farming communities (see my previous article).
Starbucks are also increasing recycling and encouraging the use of reusable cups (personal tumblers) and even offer a discount to incentivise customers to use their own cup.
As for community, something Starbuck’s is big on but don’t shout about, they are on target to engage 50,000 young people to innovate and take action in their communities by 2015. Hours of community service by Starbucks employees doubled in 2011 to 442,000 hours, with a target of 1 million hours by 2015.
Energy use in stores was down by 7.5% with 50% of Starbucks electricity worldwide coming from renewable sources. So overall, their logo is as green as their ethics.
Meanwhile, McDonald’s is trying to get rid of its polystyrene foam cups and is currently testing a double-walled fiber hot cup in the US. Globally this will massively reduce landfill. McDonald’s has made big strides in reducing waste and packaging by adopted an industry leading environmental packaging policy that included both continued progress on the increased use of recycled fiber but also took a comprehensive approach to its non-recycled paper packaging. (Check out the Dogwood Alliance report – http://www.dogwoodalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/0911104-Dogwood-Packaging-Report-Final.pdf .)
But no matter what theses brands do there will be no lack of people who will scoff and find fault with other areas. The key thing is that if we, and especially the media, encourage brands, rather than slag them off, they’ll do more. And when big brands do even small changes, globally they make a big difference.