George Clooney says he is "surprised and saddened" by an investigation that revealed child labor at coffee farms allegedly linked to Nespresso, of which he has long served as a celebrity spokesmodel.
On March 2, Britain's Channel 4 plans to air an episode of its documentary series Dispatches based on what it says are reports and footage of children working on six farms in Guatemala that allegedly supply coffee beans to the Nestle-owned company.
"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 said in a statement this week. "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 Labor 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."
"The simple truth is that this program is overwhelmingly positive for coffee farmers around the world," he continued. "With that in mind, it is also imperative to have talented investigative reporters showing the board where they have yet to succeed. We knew it was a big project when it started seven years ago, and honestly 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, "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. Barnet to hold everyone's promise to account."
Nespresso said a message posted on its website that it was informed in advance about the program but was not provided with "the information we require to identify the incriminated farms and confirm whether they supply Nespresso."
"Nespresso has zero tolerance of child labor," the group said in a statement. 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. 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. 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."