Starbucks Corp. said in a public letter Tuesday that it is committing to be a "resource-positive" company by 2030, with science-based preliminary targets for reducing carbon emissions, water use and waste by then.
The move comes partly in response to a 2019 shareholder proposal filed by nonprofit As You Sow and Trillium Asset Management asking the company to revive a sustainable packaging pledge to serve 25% of beverages in reusable containers and to start recycling packaging in developing markets.
The proposal won 44.5% of shareholder votes, but when the company did not fully respond, it was refiled in September for 2020. That led to a more productive dialogue with the company and the withdrawal of the shareholder proposal, As You Sow Senior Vice President Conrad MacKerron said in an interview.
"It was a combination of keeping the pressure on for two or three years, and the relationship came together. At this point they've welcomed us into their process. We feel like we are more of a partner," he said.
Another factor is growing concern over plastic pollution, that now ranks along with climate change, he said.
In addition to agreeing to shift to reusable packaging, Starbucks will also research ways to promote customer behavior change and undertake efforts to reduce global packaging waste 50% by 2030. With much of Starbucks' growth in developing markets such as China, "that will be a much bigger list," Mr. MacKerron said.
Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson said in the letter that the company will formalize its 2030 environmental goals in 2021, its 50th anniversary, "based on what we have learned between now and then."
Allan Pearce, shareholder advocate for Trillium Asset Management, said in a statement that it was "proud to have been an integral part of the shareholder action that has led to these new ambitions from Starbucks. ... While Starbucks has a long road ahead to achieve these goals, we're encouraged that its priorities are rooted in transparent data and will be supplemented by first-of-its-kind market research."