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On Monday 2 March 2020, the UK documentary series, Dispatches, is airing a programme focused on child labour. Nespresso and George Clooney will be featured or referred to in this programme. Dispatches has informed Nespresso and George Clooney that they have reports and footage of children working on a small number of Rainforest Alliance certified farms in the region of Fraijanes in Guatemala, which they have informed us supply Nespresso. Dispatches has not provided the information we require to identify the incriminated farms and confirm whether they supply Nespresso. Nonetheless, we have launched our own investigation on the ground.

Nespresso’s Position on Child Labour

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 to 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 labor 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 labor 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 labor 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.

Our commitment to Ethical and Sustainable coffee

Nespresso set up the AAA Sustainable QualityTM Program in 2003 with the NGO Rainforest Alliance to work directly with farmers to improve environmental and social conditions on farms. The program includes measures to tackle child labour.

Through the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality ProgramTM, Nespresso buys coffee from over 110,000 farms around the world and employs more than 400 agronomists to support these farms in meeting social and environmental standards, as well as improving the quality of their coffee and their productivity.

The standards promoted in the program are based on the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN), validated by the leading sustainability standards organisation ISEAL, and the International Labor Organisation (ILO) criteria. The AAA Program is a continuous improvement program which supports farmers in obtaining Rainforest Alliance or Fairtrade certification. All the farms Nespresso works with in Guatemala have been Rainforest Alliance certified through the AAA Program.

The Nespresso Tool for the Assessment of Sustainable QualityTM (TASQ) sets the guidelines to evaluate farms participating in the Nespresso AAA Sustainable QualityTM Program.

We have a strong relationship and engagement with the farmers in our coffee supply chain. Our agronomists use every farm visit to raise awareness, promote prevention of child labour and reinforce best practice.

Child labour is an incredibly complex problem. We do believe we are making a difference thanks to our on the ground presence, raising awareness and educating farmers and suppliers on the risks of child labour.

What our partners say

“Our partnership with Nespresso, which reaches back more than 17 years, is focused on producing high quality coffee while also improving farmers’ livelihoods and the wellbeing of their families, workers and communities,” said Han de Groot, CEO of the Rainforest Alliance. “The Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality Program is a comprehensive and thoughtful approach to achieving these aims. It is a well-respected program that deploys hundreds of local trainers and is based on long-term relationships with farmers.”

Han de Groot, CEO of the Rainforest Alliance

“Naturally, we are very concerned when we hear about allegations of child labor in any supply chain,” said Dario Soto Abril, CEO of Fairtrade International. “However, Fairtrade became a partner of Nespresso, certifying AAA coffee and joining the Nespresso Sustainability Advisory Board (NSAB) in 2013, because we had a shared vision for improving the lives of coffee farmers and workers. With their AAA Program, Nespresso is committed to social justice, inclusion, and human rights, as well as environmental sustainability: all of which are key elements in the Fairtrade Standards and related to our common values. We will continue working with companies, like Nespresso, that are serious about paying workers and farmers fairly and are committed to ensuring that exploitation and abuse of human rights are a thing of the past.”

Dario Soto Abril, CEO of Fairtrade International

“For millions of smallholder coffee farmers, a conscientious buyer for their coffee can mean the difference between poverty and a secure, prosperous future. That’s why we at TechnoServe, a nonprofit dedicated to reducing poverty, have partnered with Nespresso for many years on their AAA Sustainable Quality Program, which sets the highest sustainability and ethical standards in its coffee supply chains. Time and again, Nespresso has ”walked the walk“ when it comes to ensuring that farmers in our programs receive the best training, support, and prices for their coffee. Even in the most challenging circumstances, Nespresso has remained steadfast in their commitment to better lives for the farmers they work with. As a result, thousands of farmers around the world have gained the skills and knowledge to earn long-term increased incomes, helping them achieve transformative improvements in health, education, and opportunities for themselves and their families. We are proud to partner with Nespresso, and look forward to even greater progress in the future.”

William Warshauer, President and CEO of TechnoServe

What we usually observe in Nespresso supply chains is that coffee farmers have long term partnerships for selling their coffee, at high prices and with strong technical support. They are proud to have been selected to sell to Nespresso and willing to improve their quality and sustainability of their farms. Nespresso to us is directly contributing to valorizing the image and prices for coffee in Guatemala and elsewhere. Selling to Nespresso for a coffee farmer is the best way to exit from poverty. It is a recognition of the quality of his coffee and the guarantee to sell at the highest prices of the market (usually between 30 and 40 % above market prices), over the long term, and be supported technically by agronomists to improve the productivity and sustainability of the farm (via the AAA Program).

Nespresso is a reference and a pride for coffee farmers who sell to the brand. Saying that Nespresso is contributing to the degradation of production conditions of coffee farmers including encouraging child labor like in Guatemala does not reflect the reality of what happens in the field. The presence and purchases from Nespresso in Guatemala valuing the product quality and paying the highest prices of the market with increasing volumes is directly impacting positively the social and environmental conditions of coffee farms in Guatemala and is the best way to contribute to stop child labor.

Tristan Lecomte, Founder of PUR Projet

Farm certification and third party audits

While we inspect and audit our whole supply chain to protect against child labour through our agronomists, we also work with Rainforest Alliance on the ground in areas where child labour is a social and economic issue to educate and support suppliers in mitigating against the causes. In all visits and audits done last year around the world, two cases of child labour were reported. Ten have been reported over the last four years (none of them in Guatemala), and each one has been effectively resolved. Our own records of recent farm visits and audits in this region of Guatemala haven’t raised any issues.

We rely on the Rainforest Alliance for external third party verification and certification.

Paying premium prices for quality coffee to prevent child labour

As economic conditions are one of the major causes of child labour, Nespresso is paying a premium to farmers for AAA coffee, improving the economic and social aspects of farming families and reducing a significant factor in the use of child labour. The AAA Program has proved to create economic and social positive impact for the farmers.

  • Net income levels were found to be 46% higher for AAA farmers than non-AAA farmers.*
  • The profits of farmers in the program increased by at least 20%**

Nespresso pays the highest coffee prices in the region of Fraijanes. Farmers receive a premium for their coffee grown as part of the AAA Program and an additional one because their coffee is Rainforest Alliance certified. This amounts to around $18 per bag of green coffee.

The Nespresso Sustainability Advisory Board

Since 2013, our sustainability investments have been overseen by the Nespresso Sustainability Advisory Board. Members include George Clooney, the CEOs of Rainforest Alliance, Fairtrade International, Fairtrade US, the Fair Labor Organisation, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC), Pur Projet, TechnoServe, the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative, a representative of the International Finance Corporation and leading academics.

FAQs

What did you do to protect the children when you heard of the allegations?

We immediately asked Dispatches for the names of the farms, as this would have allowed us to take action and protect any children immediately. They refused to provide these details, which is disappointing as it only delays our intervention where allegations would be confirmed. However, we have launched a thorough investigation and taken a number of actions.

The work to eradicate child labour has always been a priority and as another important step in that effort we began working in 2018 to develop a holistic, integrated and long-term approach to protecting children and youth in coffee producing regions.

Together with partners Nespresso aims to tackle the multidimensional issue of child labour by integrating children’s rights into Nespresso’s global and broader sustainability strategy. A Nespresso Response Guide Protecting children in coffee farming has been developed for Nespresso’s agronomists, country representatives and the HQ task-force to help guide and support them in efforts to protect children.

Nespresso has also launched a pilot to prevent child labor in large farms. This pilot consists in creating safe places for children large farms during harvest, where children will be educated and have their meals, while parents work in the farm. These facilities also offer basic medical consultation for the children.

How do you not know whether the farms filmed supply to Nespresso?

Upon hearing of Dispatches’ findings, we have asked the producers to share all available evidence that they have found, so that we can immediately investigate and take decisive action. Unfortunately Dispatches has not been forthcoming in providing all the names of the farms where they say they have witnessed child labour. We’ve therefore launched a thorough investigation on the ground to find out which farms were filmed and whether they supply Nespresso. We currently source coffee from 374 farms in Fraijanes that are part of the Nespresso AAA Program. In total, the Fraijanes area has 616 farms, meaning that there are 242 farms in that area that we don’t buy coffee from. As we could exclude a cooperative from our investigation based on a piece of information from the show producers, it means we still have 335 AAA farms to investigate, which is a considerable task at hand that we are carrying out at the moment.

Have you had cases of child labour in Guatemala before?

No. Since we started buying coffee in Guatemala in 2005, we haven’t had any reported cases of child labour. Nespresso has zero tolerance of child labour.

What do you do if you find instances of child labour in coffee farms you work with?

As per the criteria of our AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program, the farm will be notified of the issue prior to being excluded from the Program. We will not buy any more coffee from this farm until the situation is resolved. We will initiate a remediation plan with the farmer(s), providing a 90-day resolution period, meaning that we will provide an opportunity to the farmer(s) in question to make sure he/she progresses to become compliant and therefore eligible to re-join the Nespresso AAA Program. Compliance with the standards is verified by an independent third party, the Sustainable Agricultural Network (SAN).

What is your current process for farm verification?

On all farms enlisted in the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ program, 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.

All the farms taking part in the AAA Program are visited every year, at least once per year, by our own team of agronomists and audited against our criteria through in-depth sustainability assessments. We rely our partner the Rainforest Alliance for external third party verification and certification.

Which concrete actions do you undertake to ensure there is no child labour on the farms you buy coffee from?

Nespresso has zero tolerance of child labour. It is unacceptable. Any issues we uncover will be dealt with diligently and firm action is always taken. 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 addition, Nespresso takes additional steps to address the root causes of child labour.

  • The Nespresso AAA approach helps farmers track compliance and performance against specific criteria. Nespresso and partner agronomists work with farmers to complete self-assessments and jointly address any issues.
  • As economic conditions are one of the major causes of child labour, Nespresso is paying a premium to farmers for AAA coffee, improving the economic and social aspects of farming families and reducing a significant factor in the use of child labour. The AAA Program has proved to create economic positive impact for the farmers.

-Net income levels were found to be 46% higher for AAA farmers than non-AAA farmers.*
-The profits of farmers in the program increased by at least 20%**

How much do you pay farmers in Fraijanes, Guatemala?

We pay the highest coffee prices in the region of Fraijanes. In addition to the standard local price for coffee, farmers in this region receive around $11 per bag of green coffee as premium for coffee grown as part of the AAA Program. Additionally, they receive $7 per bag as an additional premium for their coffee as it is Rainforest Alliance certified.

* CRECE’s Independent Monitoring & Evaluation Study, Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program Colombia, Published 2013

** “Improving Export Quality: Sustainable Quality Program in Colombian Coffee” by London School of Economics & Political Science and Toulouse School of Economics on the impact of the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program, 2019 – more here


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