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Just How Sustainable Is Starbucks? New Logo, New Waste

By Tara Alley

Starbucks has been working rather diligently lately in an effort to prove their dedication to being a more sustainable business.  They’re in the process of getting new cups in place.  They’re in the process of making recycling containers available.  But currently, Starbucks has been creating waves round the world with their unveiling of a new logo, and in the midst of excitement, nonchalance, and flat out disgust, there’s also a good deal of legitimate confusion surrounding the “why” behind it all.  Not only does it seem strange to take off the words “Starbucks” and “Coffee,” i.e.: take the Starbucks out of Starbucks, one would have to argue that a simple – what would seem entirely unnecessary – change in artwork, is going to create some massive amounts of equally unnecessary waste.  Claiming that the new logo will be widespread by March, a mere three months from now, it’s quite difficult to imagine that there isn’t a stockpile of plastic “old logo” cups (which are only 10% recyclable) that are going to be thrown by the wayside.
And, for a company that has a large portion of their website devoted to promoting the claim that they’re very environmentally aware and making constant efforts to reduce their footprint through methods including recycling, constructing “green” buildings and ethically sourcing their coffee sources, what does it mean to add up the countless building signs, road signs, printed items for every product they carry, window graphics, gift cards, etc. that are all going to have to be re-made, re-printed and shipped to every corner of the globe?  It means a pretty deep carbon footprint.

They’ve been claiming that by 2015, they will have new, 100% recyclable cups and that by 2012, they’ll have recycling containers available in their stores.  But, could it have been a bigger boost for their company to invest in those efforts sooner rather than later with the money poured into the creative team behind this new logo and the sudden mass production going to be involved in new products?  Again, not to mention the waste created with every single Starbucks product that’s going to have to be dumped in this overhaul?

It looks like Starbucks is making a subtle statement about what leads to profits, and it doesn’t look like the world is quite at the point where it’s our desire for sustainability.  This is the fourth logo change since the inception of Starbucks just forty years ago.  And, if it wasn’t something with proven profit, they wouldn’t be doing it again.  If giving us the option to have recyclable cups was feasible in 2011, and would have guaranteed to bring them more profits than a new snazzy logo would, that’s where their energy would be devoted.

As business owners and supporters, how do we change this driving bottom line?  As a current Starbucks drinker, does this change your opinion?  Any more or less likely to purchase a shiny new, 10% recyclable cup sporting the new logo?


*Photos retrieved from: Starbucks.com.

Tara Alley is a freelance writer currently promoting all varieties of green coffee and coffee makers for Coffee Home Direct.

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