Vegans and non-vegans alike can rejoice at the news that Starbucks is putting an end to the vegan milk “tax.” Earlier this year they announced their plans to become a more eco-friendly business, part of which includes promoting their plant-based dairy alternatives. It can be seen as part of a bigger drive to cater to their younger customers, many of which have been applying pressure on the food and beverage chain to do more for the planet.
While they are being called out for greenwashing, it’s still good news for the vegan movement. The Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson explained that this decision is intended to “push customers to choose milk made from almond, coconuts, soy or oats, whose production is environmentally friendlier than dairy.”
The Need to Reduce Dairy
It’s easy to see how reduced dairy dependency helps Starbucks achieve its sustainability goals. They have revealed that their use of dairy products accounts for more than a fifth of all their greenhouse gas emissions. It also accounts for a seventh of their water waste. Kevin Johnson spoke of how much vegan milk consumption would be a “big part of the solution” for them.
And in other places in the world, it’s looking even more hopeful. In Hong Kong, for example, their plant-based milk alternatives will become the new standard throughout their stores. Alongside this, less cream and whipped cream will be offered with their existing drinks. Where feasible, this new standard will be rolled out in other locations around the world, too.
Change Takes Time
Starbucks’ eco-friendly initiative wasn’t without resistance. For the last few months, animal rights group PETA has been the initiator of a campaign against the corporation for the extra-fee they charge customers for non-dairy alternatives. They spoke of the unjustified “tax” they apply to those who choose not to consume milk for ethical, environmental, or medical reasons. Activists began protesting at the end of last year, and sit-ins began springing up all over chains across America this February.
The most exciting thing about this is that other food companies are likely to start following suit. Not only when it comes to the availability of non-dairy alternatives, but also in terms of making it the new standard. As one of the biggest players in the food service industry, their stance on sustainability matters.