Forget pizza and lobster rolls:  the guilty pleasure in the American Northeast, especially New England, is Dunkin’ Donuts, the Tim Horton’s of America.  Few things start a morning better than a cup of its leaded coffee and a calorie-invested muffin or doughnut.  Or, if you are me, you temper that indulgence and just get one or two munchkins.  The results?  A smile and often you won’t be charged for the 15 cent doughnut.  Talk about customer social responsibility (CSR?).

Speaking of CSR, can a company that sells coffee in styrofoam cups and food that makes food police organizations like Center For Science in the Public Interest shake quicker than tofu-on-a-stick?  Well, Dunkin’ Brands (the parent company of our beloved doughnut chain, which includes Baskin-Robbins), issued its first CSR report.  Here are some highlights:

  • Those foam cups will not go away anytime soon.  The company faces what similar companies confront:  growing environmental awareness conflicting with what consumers want.  The company has experimented with lighter cups, compostables, and increased recycling--reusable cups are undergoing a pilot program as well.  Expect Dunkin’ to struggle, like Starbucks, to find a solution.  As for the plastic Baskin-Robbins spoon, do not expect an alternative to come out until 2013.
  • Green building:  the company is experimenting with energy efficiency, water efficiency, and improved HVAC technology at its stores and at the venerable Dunkin’ Brands University (DBU).  Its first LEED-certified store (or restaurant, as the company prefers) opened in St. Petersburg, Florida, in 2008.  Again, like those munchkins, baby steps, baby steps.
  • Corporate governance:  Pretty thin here compared to what companies like Intel disclose on their transparency issues.  Links to other sides, disclosures about the trade organizations to which they belong, and their lobbying activities.  This may raise more questions than answers.
  • Community:  Dunkin’ is a winner here.  Coffee for our troops, Special Olympics, Jimmy Fund, and local scholarships are just a few examples of Dunkin's corporate philanthropy.  While it is easy to attack companies for what they are NOT doing (a favorite tactic of other writers that contribute to publications for which I write), let us remember the steps that newbies like Dunkin’ Donuts are taking.
The report is a good framework for learning what Dunkin’ can do to become even a more responsible company.  They will have to take the lead in changing consumer habits, improving their ingredient sourcing, and reducing their energy consumption.  And they will have to--because adopting smarter sourcing and building policies will save them money, and build even more goodwill, in the long run.

About The Author

Leon Kaye

Leon Kaye is the founder and editor of GreenGoPost.com. Based in California, he is a business writer and consultant. His work is has also appeared on Triple Pundit , The Guardian's Sustainable Business site and has appeared on Inhabitat and Earth911. His focus is making the business case for sustainability and corporate social responsibility. He's pictured here in Qatar, one of the Middle East countries in which he takes a keen interest because of its transformation into a post-oil economy. Other areas of interest include sustainable development in The Balkans, Brazil and Korea. He was a new media journalism fellow at the International Reporting Project, for which he covered child survival in India during February 2013. Contact him at leon@greengopost.com. You can also reach out via Twitter (@LeonKaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost). As of October 2013, he now lives and works in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.