George Clooney speaks out on Nespresso child labor report: 'I was surprised and saddened to see this story'

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George Clooney is weighing in on a report linking Nespresso to child labor. (Photo: Tolga AKMEN / AFP) (Photo credit should read TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
George Clooney is weighing in on a report linking Nespresso to child labor. (Photo: Tolga AKMEN / AFP) (Photo credit should read TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)

George Clooney is responding to a report linking Nespresso to child labor. The allegations will be featured in an upcoming episode of the documentary series Dispatches on Britain’s Channel 4.

Journalist Anthony Barnett allegedly uncovered child labor at six of the coffee company’s suppliers in Guatemala. Clooney, who has been the brand ambassador for Nespresso since 2006, said he “was surprised and saddened to see this story.”

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“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 labor,” Clooney told Yahoo Entertainment in a statement Wednesday. “That’s why I joined the Sustainability advisory board of Nespresso seven years ago along with the Rainforest Alliance, Fair Trade International, and the Fair Labour Association among many others with the goal then, as it remains to this day to improve the lives of farmers. Make their farms more profitable. More sustainable. More safe.”

Nespresso, which is owned by Nestle, set up the AAA Sustainable Quality 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 labor.

“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. They’ve risked their lives trying to rebuild farms in South Sudan and spent a year on the ground helping farmers restore their farms in Puerto Rico after the hurricane,” Clooney continued. “The simple truth is that this program is overwhelmingly positive for coffee farmers around the world.”

Clooney added, “With that in mind it is also imperative to have talented investigative reporters showing the board where they have yet to succeed.”

According to Deadline, Barnett and Dispatches were given access to coffee farms in Guatemala, which is the world’s 10th largest coffee producer. They reportedly saw children working on some of the remote farms.

“We knew it was a big project when it started 7 years ago, and honestly I was surprised and saddened to see this story,” Clooney said. “Clearly this board and this company still have work to do. And that work will be done. I would hope that this reporter 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.”

Guillaume Le Cunff, the CEO of Nespresso, also released a statement after news broke.

“Nespresso has zero tolerance of child labor. It is unacceptable,” he began. “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. Any issues we uncover will be dealt with diligently and firm action will be taken.”

“We work with Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade International to reinforce good working practices and fair treatment of workers, including education on the dangers of child labor,” Le Cunff concluded. “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.”

Dispatches plans to air the episode on March 2.

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