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George Clooney’s coffee giant Nespresso admits buying beans from child labour farms

Nespresso coffee – which is advertised by movie star George Clooney –  has admitted to buying beans from three farms in Guatemala where child labour is used. 

The admission comes after specialists probed the coffee giant’s suppliers in the region. 

The coffee maker said a team of 10 investigators had found three ‘confirmed cases of child labour’ on the 374 farms they visited in the region.

‘Firm action has been taken,’ it added.

Pictured: Movie star George Clooney in new Nespresso coffee advert. The actor, who has reportedly earned £31million as the brand’s ambassador, said he was saddened after youngsters were filmed working eight-hour days on plantations for less than £5

A youngster was filmed picking coffee beans in Guatemala as part of a Channel 4 dispatches investigation earlier this month

A youngster was filmed picking coffee beans in Guatemala as part of a Channel 4 dispatches investigation earlier this month 

The three farms have been struck off from its list of suppliers, said Nespresso, which is one of the world’s biggest buyers of coffee.

However, the farms will return to its payroll when they can ‘prove that they have resolved the situation’, Nespresso said.

A Dispatches documentary last month allegedly showed children as young as 11 working on six Nespresso-supplying farms in Guatemala.

The documentary crew filmed children picking coffee beans or hauling sacks at a total of six farms which supply the coffee giant.

The company’s experts visited all Nespresso’s suppliers in the Fraijanes region of Guatemala.

A Dispatches documentary last month allegedly showed children as young as 11 working on six Nespresso-supplying farms in Guatemala (pictured)

A Dispatches documentary last month allegedly showed children as young as 11 working on six Nespresso-supplying farms in Guatemala (pictured)

They found three farms with child labour, but others where children were ‘legitimately’ helping out.

In a statement, the company said: ‘Given that the allegations related to a period of school vacation, the investigators were particularly careful to distinguish between cases where children were helping their parents legitimately, mitigating the safety risks of leaving children unattended at home, and cases of child labour which contravene local and international standards, for which Nespresso has a clear zero-tolerance approach.’

The coffee maker has now laid out a six-point short-term plan to crack down on labour abuses in Guatemala.

It will double its team of experts, hire social workers to help families with children, and introduce spot checks and unannounced farm visits.

Chief executive Guillaume Le Cunff said: ‘Child protection is critical for us. We are working closely with our partners in Guatemala and around the world to raise awareness and educate farmers and suppliers on the risks of child labour, and ensure we do everything we can to minimise the possibility of this happening in the future. This issue is, and always will be, a priority for us.’ 

Last month, Clooney pledged ‘work will be done’ after an investigation uncovered child labour at farms linked to the Nespresso coffee he advertises.

They found three farms with child labour, but others where children were 'legitimately' helping out. Pictured: One of the Guatemalan farms uncovered by Dispatches

They found three farms with child labour, but others where children were ‘legitimately’ helping out. Pictured: One of the Guatemalan farms uncovered by Dispatches 

The actor, who has reportedly earned £31million as the brand’s ambassador, said he was saddened after youngsters were filmed working eight-hour days on plantations for less than £5.

The probe by Channel 4’s Dispatches showed them doing up to six-day weeks picking beans and shifting heavy loads to weighing areas in Guatemala.

Nespresso, known for its stylish coffee machines and capsules, does not publicly list its supplier farms.

But Dispatches said it found information about suppliers in Guatemala, the world’s tenth largest coffee producer. Reporters claim they were given access to farms located in remote regions and saw children working at all of them.

George Clooney has pledged ‘work will be done’ after an investigation uncovered child labour at farms linked to the Nespresso coffee he advertises

George Clooney has pledged ‘work will be done’ after an investigation uncovered child labour at farms linked to the Nespresso coffee he advertises

The Swiss coffee brand has previously claimed its beans come from ethical sources.

Clooney, who joined Nespresso’s Sustainability Advisory Board in 2013, said: ‘I was surprised and saddened to see this story. Clearly this board and this company still have work to do. And that work will be done.’

He added: ‘Having grown up working on a tobacco farm from the time I was 12 I’m uniquely aware of the complex issues regarding farming and child labour.’

Clooney, who worked on his grandparents’ tobacco farm in Kentucky during summer holidays, said he hoped Dispatches reporter Anthony Barnett, who revealed the evidence, ‘will continue to investigate these conditions and report accurately if they do not improve’.

‘The check and balance of good corporate responsibility lies not just with the company itself but also independent journalists like Mr Barnett to hold everyone’s promise to account,’ Clooney said.

The actor, 58, has been Nespresso’s brand ambassador since 2006 and insisted he was ‘enormously proud’ of its work

The actor, 58, has been Nespresso’s brand ambassador since 2006 and insisted he was ‘enormously proud’ of its work

The actor, who has reportedly earned £31million as the brand’s ambassador, said he was saddened after youngsters were filmed working eight-hour days on plantations for less than £5 (file photo, Tena, Cundinamarca, Colombia)

The actor, who has reportedly earned £31million as the brand’s ambassador, said he was saddened after youngsters were filmed working eight-hour days on plantations for less than £5 (file photo, Tena, Cundinamarca, Colombia)

The actor, 58, has been Nespresso’s brand ambassador since 2006 and insisted he was ‘enormously proud’ of its work. He said he joined the advisory board and groups including the Rainforest Alliance, Fair Trade International and the Fair Labour Association.

He added: ‘The goal then, as it remains to this day, is to improve the lives of farmers. Make their farms more profitable. More sustainable. I’m enormously proud of the success of their efforts. They’ve improved the lives and livelihoods of thousands of farms all around the world.’

Nespresso chief executive Guillaume Le Cunff insisted it had ‘zero tolerance of child labour’ and promised to investigate. He said: ‘It is unacceptable. Where there are claims that our high standards are not met, we act immediately.

‘In this case, we’ve launched a thorough investigation to find out which farms were filmed and whether they supply Nespresso. We will not resume purchases of coffee from farms in this area until the investigation is closed.’

The Swiss coffee brand has previously claimed its beans come from ethical sources (pictured: Nespresso Pixie, Electric Lime)

The Swiss coffee brand has previously claimed its beans come from ethical sources (pictured: Nespresso Pixie, Electric Lime)

Dispatches said Nespresso declined to give an interview.

Since its formation in 2000, the company has hired more than 13,000 staff in 76 countries and launched more than 700 boutique stores.

It is not the first time the brand has been accused of forced labour. An investigation by Reuters in December found coffee produced by forced labour in Brazil was stamped slavery-free by certification schemes and sold at a premium to firms like Nespresso.

Dispatches is on Monday at 8pm on Channel 4.

A statement from Nespresso reads: ‘Nespresso has zero tolerance of child labour. It is unacceptable. Where there are claims that our high standards are not met, we act immediately. In this case, we were informed by a UK media outlet that they had identified instances of child labor on six farms in a region of Guatemala.

‘The media outlet refused to provide us with the details of the farms so that we could confirm whether they supplied Nespresso and immediately address these allegations. However, we have launched a thorough investigation and taken a number of actions.

‘First and foremost, we have immediately stopped purchases of coffee from all farms in the region and we will not resume purchases until we are able to investigate and be assured that child labour is not being used. 

‘Through the investigation, any issues we uncover will be dealt with diligently and firm action will be taken. 

‘We will also double the number of agronomists that we have on the ground in the region and we will implement unannounced visits to check on compliance on social and labour issues.

‘All of these actions are on top of our ongoing direct work with farmers and partners in the region and around the world. 

‘We work with Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade International to reinforce good working practices and fair treatment of workers, including education on the risks of child labour. 

‘In fact, all of the farms in the cooperatives in this region of Guatemala are Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade certified. 

‘We invest heavily in this effort; in 2019, our 400 agronomists made over 170,000 farm visits and trainings across the world, including 60,000 detailed on farm sustainability assessments. 

‘This was backed up by more than 3,300 third party verification farm audits.

‘We will continue to do all we can to stamp child labour out. It has no place in our supply chain.

‘We are extremely concerned by the allegations made and take them very seriously. We are making significant efforts to address child labor and protect the children in the coffee farming communities we work with, and we will continue to do so.’

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