This article examines some of the initiatives that Starbucks is taking to address climate change and goes on to explore some of the reasons for these moves. In an associated February 18 story entitled Tim Hortons to give away roughly two-million reusable cups as part of Roll Up the Rim revamp, Ms. Robertson examines efforts by Tim’s to reduce the waste it produces.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):

Environmental studies, world issues, business studies, marketing

Key Questions to Explore:

  • What are these companies doing to address climate change?
  • What are their motives for doing so?

New Terminology:

Blackrock, sustainability, NextGen Consortium

Materials Needed:

Copies of the articles for the students.

Study and Discussion Activity


Climate change and the need to address it have been front and centre for a while now. They are, finally, becoming part of consumers’ conscience and many people are not only changing their personal habits but also starting to hold companies accountable for their efforts to address climate change. This is bringing about changes in the ways in which various companies do business. Whether it is simply positioning themselves to appear responsible and draw business or the result of honest acceptance of the need to be part of the solution in addressing climate change doesn’t matter. These changes are long overdue and could be the harbinger of other positive changes to come. The phrase “power of the purse” comes to bear here. If consumers change their behaviours and expectations of companies, those companies will have to change in order to survive. This lesson will have the students consider how “the power of the purse” can bring about dramatic positive change in our efforts to address climate change.


  • Begin the lesson by asking the students to explain what is meant by the phrase “the power of the purse”.
  • Once they have identified that it essentially means the ability of one group to control the actions of another group by allocating or withholding funds based on certain criteria or stipulations, ask them if they think they possess this power.
  • Have them identify ways in which they can exercise this power.
  • Have them identify issues which are important to them.
  • Once they have compiled this list, indicate that climate change will be the focus issue for the lesson.
  • Divide the class into groups of four or five students and ask the groups to discuss ways in which they believe they could exercise the power of their purse to affect positively efforts to address climate change.
  • Allow the groups time to discuss the question and then have them report back to the class.


  • Hold a plenary session to discuss their ideas.
Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria:

  • The students will be able to explain how they, as consumers, can bring about positive change by exercising their power of the purse.

Confirming Activity:

  • With this as background, hand out the two articles and allow time for the groups to read and discuss them.
  • Hold a plenary session to get their reactions to what they have just read.
  • Hold a class discussion during which the students discuss which of the following two alternatives best describes the actions of these companies:
    1. They want to be good corporate citizens and do everything they can to assist in addressing climate change;
    2. They are smart corporations that are trying to position themselves so that they will get the support of the population who are carefully examining how companies are adapting to address climate change.
  • As a concluding activity, ask the students to explain how they will now alter their power of the purse to address issues which are important to them.