The Plant-Based Workplace   by Gigi Carter


An Open Letter to Starbucks

I do not understand… why, Starbucks, do you charge a premium for plant-based milk beverages? Who are you protecting in the dairy industry that keeps you going against your own self-interest and the interests of your consumers? Is there a conspiracy or just poor, out-of-date judgment on the part of those who make pricing decisions?

I originally reached out to you almost a year ago. I wrote you a well-crafted letter outlining my concerns about the 160 million gallons of fluid dairy milk you go through each year. I pointed out that you are under-reporting your environmental footprint in your published sustainability report by omitting animal agriculture. I even extended a hand to help you navigate the change with consumers, so you could come out as a hero.

You, like others who benefit from consumers who’ve bought your products over the years, have a corporate social responsibility and obligation to change, given the circumstances we face as a planet. We cannot continue to consume dairy (and other products from ruminant animals) and expect this planet to be habitable for future generations.

I shared how consumers can contribute to environmental footprint savings by choosing plant-based milks over cow milk beverages. I also shared how you can attract more consumers and leverage your market position to lead an industry-wide change. After all, your main product—coffee—is very susceptible to climate change. Yet all you focus on are light bulbs and paper cups. Why are you ignoring this massive elephant in the room?

The premium you charge for plant-based milks also penalizes many people of color who have a lactose intolerance. Specifically, these are people of African, Asian, Latino, and Native American descent.[1] Why do you alienate your diverse customer base? Perhaps a refresher training on unconscious bias might be helpful?[2]

Starbucks, since you took no action after my attempt last year to convince you to remove the plant-based milk premium, I have signed this PETA petition and I’m encouraging others to do the same. I have also advised my financial advisor to buy stock in Starbucks, because I intend to show up at the next annual shareholders meeting. I hope to be able to praise you for removing this premium for plant-based milks. You have an ethical responsibility to incentivize more sustainable choices. Please do the right thing.

[1] National Institutes of Health, Digestive Diseases, Lactose Intolerance

[2] Washington Post article: Starbucks is turning to a type of workplace training that ‘really
took off after Ferguson’