Follow the Leader: Starbucks Says Paper Is Renewable, Recyclable, Sustainable
I love good coffee! So, I often find myself in a Starbucks, especially during my travels. These days the first thing I do when I walk in is check the napkins for environmental claims. The claim I see today at an Orlando Starbucks is “This napkin is made with 100% recycled content and a minimum 40% post-consumer fiber.”
Factual, verifiable and (hopefully) substantiated — the claim is simple and accurate. A year ago the claims were quite different and included inaccurate wording about “saving trees”.
Starbucks is one of the companies that has collaborated with Two Sides to adjust its claims. As a result of our discussions with their sustainability department, the company modified its message on napkins and paper bags. Their inventory across North America is now being turned over to the new message, which literally includes millions of impressions that are seen by millions of their customers.
But that’s not the best part. I order lunch with my coffee and it comes in a paper bag with a claim printed underneath the bag: “Renewable, recyclable, sustainable — contains minimum 40% post-consumer material.” Again, a very factual claim — Starbucks saying paper is renewable, recyclable and sustainable.
I know for a fact that the bag inventory in most Starbucks still has the old message about “trees being saved” — I have been checking! If you see a new and more factual message, please let me know. Snap a photo and sent it to email@example.com
It’s important for corporate marketers to notice what is happening here. Although the “save a tree” claim has been irresistible for many marketing departments as they cut costs and promote electronic services over paper-based communications — it also shows a disconnect between marketing and sustainability within large companies.
Examples like Starbucks have made me realize that most sustainability experts in the corporate world are very well equipped and effective at educating their internal marketing departments about the following:
- the rules on environmental marketing (i.e., Green Guides published by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission) and the need to keep claims specific and to have credible scientific substantiation
- the life cycle and unique environmental features of sustainable forests and forest products like paper
- the causes and definition of deforestation (agriculture, urbanization, development — not sustainable forestry!)
- the environmental impact of switching from paper to electronic
- the fact many of their customers need and value paper
Starbucks was a great company to work with and we certainly hope more will follow their suit.
For more on Two Sides and our campaign go to: www.twosidesna.org/Anti-Greenwash-Campaign
Phil has over 28 years of international experience related to sustainability and the forest products industry. He currently leads Two Sides North America, a non-profit that promotes the unique sustainable features of print and paper, as well as their responsible production and use. Two Sides operates globally in five continents with members that span the entire graphic communication value chain. Phil has written extensively on sustainability and environmental topics related to the forest products sector. He received his Bachelor and Master's of Science degrees from McGill University in Montreal. He is a private forest owner and sustainably manages over 200 acres of forestland for both recreational and economic benefits.