On 25th September 2023, the animal rights organisation PETA submitted a shareholder resolution to the coffee chain Starbucks calling on the board to commission a report to examine whether the company is losing sales and damaging its image by charging a higher price for vegan milks in its US stores. This is part of a weeklong push for Starbucks to drop its vegan milk upcharge, and it is the second time PETA is pushing Starbucks executives to commission such a report, following enthusiastic support from other shareholders.
The resolution points out that the production of plant-based kinds of milk emits roughly three times less greenhouse gas and uses nearly 10 times less land and up to 20 times less freshwater than the production of cow’s milk.
By mentioning that most people of colour have some form of lactose intolerance and that Starbucks should anticipate a growing backlash against companies that penalise individuals for who they are or for standing up for the planet, it seems that the group has also learnt the lesson from the campaigning group Switch4Good which, in 2022, managed to stop the plant-base surcharge in the UK Starbucks branches by using this intersectional approach.
Tracy Reiman, PETA Executive Vice President, said, “Starbucks should be encouraging consumers to choose animal- and planet-friendly vegan milks, not punishing them for it. PETA is calling on Starbucks to report the true cost of alienating those customers who can’t stomach cow’s milk for ethical, religious, environmental, or dietary reasons.”
The week of action to push Starbucks to drop its upcharge includes protests at more than 30 Starbucks locations in the US. Caribou Coffee, a Starbucks competitor, recently dropped its vegan milk upcharge for Caribou Perks members who order ahead on its app, and many other popular coffee stores — such as Panera Bread, Pret A Manger, and Stumptown Coffee Roasters — already offer dairy-free milk at no extra charge.