OG11 Morning Keynote: Ben Packard- VP, Global Responsibility, Starbucks

Posted on 10. Nov, 2011 by in Business & Policy, Collaboration, Design & Culture, Events, Interviews, Products

Ben Packard is the Vice President of Global Responsibility of Starbucks. Prior to assuming his current role in 2008, Ben led Starbucks Environmental Affairs team. His morning keynote address stressed the importance of the business community coming together to work on the issue of sustainability. He tied the Opportunity Green conference theme of acceleration to sharing both successes and failures within and across the business community. This collaboration will move sustainability forward in a meaningful way and develop a robust solution set.

Starbucks’ Sustainability

Ben gave a few examples of Starbucks’ successes in sustainability; specifically, with their recycling and building efficiency efforts. In 1993, Starbucks addressed sustainability as part of its corporate vision before going public. Through a partnership with Environmental Defense Fund, Starbucks made packaging changes in 1997 to decrease the environmental impact of their cups. In 2000, Starbucks helped develop the LEED standard for retails stores.

What is changing?

Ben addresses 3 major changes taking place in business today.

1. Too many failures of big business have led to complete distrust of multinational corporations. “Transparency has become the currency of trust.”

2. Businesses are addressing this in a comprehensive way. Companies like Disney, Diversey, IBM, Dell, all working to address positive Return on Investment (ROI) for sustainability.

3. New business models are being used to address these challenges.

How do we get to scale?

Starbucks addressed this question at its most elementary level: through its coffee cup. In 2008, it made a goal to have every Starbucks cup be 100% recyclable. Starbucks engaged a professor from MIT, and held a “Cup Summit.” Rather than targeting the supply chain at a single point, the summit embraced a systems view and the complexity of the value chain. Ben and his team discovered that what they thought was a materials challenge was in fact a materials recovery issue. They changed the solutions set and now work with local recyclers in Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and other markets.

Sustainability + Collaboration = the Future

Ben’s takeaway is: “the companies that figure out sustainability are the ones that will be around in 50 years.” His keynote address encouraged pushing collective wisdom, and accelerating companies to do business differently to address sustainability at scale.

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