Will Starbucks Stick to Their Sustainability Goals?

Updated: Oct 29, 2020

The only drink that I’d order at Starbucks is Soy Matcha Latte (in a mug).

I’m not a huge coffee drinker nor do I go to Starbucks often. But I can’t help feeling hopeful when I came across this article about Starbuck’s aim to be more sustainable.

So what’s more sustainable for their business?

  1. Slash greenhouse gas emissions & waste to landfills by half over the next decade

  2. Include more plant-based options in their menu

  3. Introduce reusable packaging

Sounds good to me.

I like that huge corporate businesses are pledging towards being more sustainable. It means that they listen to their customers or that they are following the trend — or both. Either way, it’s a positive step forward.

I also understand why they may not be able to make the switch completely or drastically towards the sustainable way of doing business. It may be due to conflict of interest or not wanting to lose their existing customers. Either way, it’s just them being reluctant to change their identity.

Starbucks mostly got popular due to their business and marketing tactics of personalising their drinks for their customers. They use the disposable cups to write the names of their customers with a marker pen so that it seems like Starbucks cares about each individual.

If they switch to reusable cups, they might not be able to write the names of their customers. Even though this may seem like a small matter, many customers actually do care about this.

Customers often feel like they’re entitled to a special service.

So, if Starbucks omit this act, they might receive backlash and will lose popularity and money.

Unless they come up with a reusable cup which they can write on impermanently.

Starbucks murky record of achieving sustainability goals

Some people won’t give second or third chances and they’d lose trust once you fuck up.

In 2008, Starbucks said that they would serve 25% of the drinks in reusable cups by 2015.

But by 2018, they only served 1.3% of drinks in personal reusable cups.

Looking at this record, most people would not trust that Starbucks would keep to their goals this time.

But I’m more of an optimist. To me, what matters is if right now, you are going to keep trying for the better. Your past failures are just stepping stones towards your goals.

And with their renewed pledge, it seems I can still hope for a sustainable Starbucks.

It’s all about pain vs pleasure

Starbucks knows what’s effective.

They tested something profound in the UK: they charged 5p for those who requested disposable cups and rewarded 25p to those who used their own reusable cups.

This pushed the rate of hot drinks served in reusable cups from 2.2% to 5.8%.

It’s just like the plastic bags in grocery stores, except that you get paid for using your own cups.

If only grocery stores would pay us or give discounts to those who bring their own bags…

The point is that the age-old tactics still work on us human beings.

To create new habits, we just need to add pleasure to a good habit and add pain to an old or bad habit.

If we want to read more books, we could reward ourselves with chocolate if we manage to read more than 5 chapters. If we don’t, we could pay 5 bucks to a friend that we promised to.

This is the basic strategy of creating and losing habits. If it’s pleasurable, we’d do more of it. If it’s painful, we’d deter from it.

So Starbucks’ experiment worked.

All they need to do now is to have the balls to implement it continuously and worldwide.