Ex-Starbucks exec Howard Schultz: Climate change threatens coffee industry

Retiring Starbucks Executive Chairman Howard Schultz said climate change poses a significant threat to coffee growers and the coffee industry in general.

In an interview with Time magazine in Costa Rica, Schultz, who formally stepped down from his post at Starbucks on Tuesday, said rising temperatures and an increased prevalence of droughts have made coffee more expensive and difficult to grow. To combat the threat, Starbucks, under Schultz’s direction, conducts research as a facility in Costa Rica analyzing the impact of climate conditions and developing potential solutions.

“Make no mistake – climate change is going to play a bigger role in affecting the quality and integrity of coffee,” Schultz told Time.

Coordinating Starbucks’ response to climate issues was one of Schultz’s primary responsibilities prior to his retirement, according to Time. Schultz announced his departure from the company earlier in June and is rumored to be considering a run for president in 2020.

Schultz’s departure comes as Starbucks contends with slowing sales at some of its stores. The company said earlier this month that it expected same-store sales growth of 1% in its third quarter, below analysts’ expectations. They also said it would shutter 150 underperforming store locations, roughly 100 more than its typical annual rate of closures.

A 2016 study by the scientific journal Climatic Change found that half of the land used for high-quality coffee production could be unproductive by 2050, Time reported. Schultz said Starbucks plans to share its research with coffee farmers and distributers around the world, regardless of whether they are in business together or not.

“It may be hard for people to understand why we are sharing all this information,” Schultz said. “If we don’t, there’s going to be tremendous adverse pressure on the coffee industry.”