We wrote recently about benefit corporations, a new corporate creature that exists both to make a profit and to serve a social mission. The corporate social responsibility ethos underlying benefit corporations is thriving in the world of finance, as well: Last month, Starbucks issued $500 million in sustainability bonds to support its sustainability projects related to coffee supply chain management.
Sustainability bonds are used to fund projects with a social impact. Green bonds, the close cousin of sustainability bonds, are used to fund environmental projects and have been much more prevalent to date. However, sustainability bonds are growing in popularity. This growth has been helped in part by the desire of institutional investors (such as universities) to shed their investments in things like fossil fuels and tobacco and invest instead in ventures that are good for society and the environment. Sustainability bonds have been issued in other countries (there have been 21 issuances since 2012, mostly by development banks and financial services firms), but Starbucks’ issuance is the first corporate sustainability bond in the United States.
Starbucks will use the bond proceeds to support programs that include purchasing responsibly-grown coffee, funding a network of farmer support centers around the world, providing loans that help farmers rotate their crops, and developing and maintaining sustainable farming practices for coffee.