March 6, 2020
About a month ago Starbucks announced they would be encouraging customers to choose dairy alternatives in an effort to increase several sustainability metrics. As you might expect, many in the dairy industry, including myself, were frustrated.
While I admire their desire to be environmentally sustainable, it’s always upsetting when companies make broad brushed statements that are factually incorrect. At the time, I decided to take a break from Starbucks. Well, I’ve changed my mind — I’m going to give them a second chance.
A few weeks ago, more than 30 Starbucks executives from Seattle and Toronto toured several dairy farms in Canada and the western U.S. According to a farmer involved with the tour, Starbucks was interested in hearing from producers firsthand. The coffee company had concerns about sustainability, industry bankruptcies, farmer suicide rates and labor issues.
During the tours the vice president of dairy procurement apologized to the farmers for the press release where Starbucks noted the focus on dairy alternatives. The executive explained the message was worded differently than they intended and assured the farmers the vast majority of drinks served at Starbucks are made with cow’s milk.
As you know, dairy farms have improved several sustainability metrics 10-fold in the past few decades. In fact, the dairy industry uses five times less water today than they did in 1960.
While there is certainly more work to be done, dairy farmers are leading the way to ensure their businesses stay viable in the future.
In addition to environmental stewardship, dairy farmers are committed to sustaining communities and investing in those around them. Mike Marley from New Mexico is just one farmer committed to community service and leadership.
All that to say, despite my frustration, I’m giving Starbucks a second chance — and not because I received several emails explaining the “cancel culture” does nothing to forward a healthy dialogue or because I can’t live the rest of my life without a half-sweet vanilla latte.
I’m giving Starbucks a chance because they did the right thing by going directly to the source to learn more about dairy farming. Wouldn’t it be great if all companies did that?