George Clooney responds to the claim that Nespresso uses child laborers

george nespresso

Ordinarily, I’m not a fan of blaming the celebrity spokesperson for the crimes or crappy business decisions of the company or business. But in the case of George Clooney and Nespresso, I think we can give some of the blame and shame to Clooney. Clooney has been paid millions by Nespresso to star in print ads and commercials for the coffee brand. Not only that, Clooney has a seat on Nespresso’s advisory board. And now it looks like Nespresso is using coffee beans picked by Guatemalan child laborers. Ugh.

Oscar-winning actor George Clooney says Nespresso still has “work to do” after an investigation claimed to uncover child labor at six of its suppliers in Guatemala. The 58-year-old star, who has been the company’s brand ambassador since 2006, said he was “surprised and saddened” by allegations made in an upcoming episode of the UK documentary series “Dispatches” for Channel 4.

Journalist Anthony Barnett was given access to farms in Guatemala, which is the world’s 10th largest coffee producer. Footage obtained appeared to show children working for up to six days a week picking beans on plantations and moving heavy loads. The documentary is set to air on Monday.

Addressing the investigation’s findings in a statement sent to CNN, Clooney, who is a member of Nespresso’s sustainability advisory board, said: “We knew it was a big project when it started 7 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 went on to say that he hoped Barnett, the Channel 4 reporter, “will continue to investigate these conditions and report accurately if they do not improve.” Clooney signed off by reiterating that “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.”

Nespresso, which is a unit of Swiss food giant Nestlé, told CNN in a statement that it has “zero tolerance of child labor” and has launched a “thorough investigation” to identify the farms at the center of the allegations. The company said it has stopped purchases of coffee from all farms in the region until they are able to guarantee child labor is not being used.

Nespresso said “any issues uncovered 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.” It added that it works alongside NGOs like the Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade International “to reinforce good working practices and fair treatment of workers, including education on the risks of child labour. ”

[From CNN]

I’m not going to give George a cookie for his response, but I will say that I appreciate that he gave credit to independent journalism for uncovering the issue, and that he seems genuinely appalled. It sounds like Nespresso and Nestle are appalled too, but it’s their fault for not doing proper oversight on the farms they likely finance entirely. They want to pretend that they’re merely buying from independent contractors and they have no ability to do proper oversight, but I doubt that’s the case. Anyway, I hope this is resolved. George better check that he doesn’t have children harvesting agave for his Casamigos tequila too.

Catch-22 TV Premiere

Photos courtesy of WENN, Nespresso.

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18 Responses to “George Clooney responds to the claim that Nespresso uses child laborers”

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  1. Snazzy says:

    Nestlé is evil – there is no way they are surprised by this at all. After all, their CEO said that water isn’t a human right and should only be available to those who can pay for it (I am paraphrasing here). My friend was a health economist with Nestle and they tried to get him to fudge data to say products were safe and healthy, when they clearly weren’t. He refused to buckle to the pressure to lie and so he quit. I do my best to avoid Nestlé products at all costs, even if I love George

    • ME says:

      Good that he quit, but did he also report Nestle for trying to get him to lie about the safety of their products? That’s a big deal.

      • Snazzy says:

        No, there was no written trace and no witnesses, so no proof. They would have crushed him. It’s why he just left

  2. Harla says:

    If Nestle paid the parents a liveable wage, then the children wouldn’t have to work as well. It’s not enough to take the children out of the fields if their parents can’t afford to feed them.

  3. Harla says:

    And I’m glad that George isn’t pulling a Brad and denying all knowledge.

  4. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    Another reason why I love the information age. It’s harder to hide and easier to expose monstrous behavior. It’s the responses and action taken needing some tweaks. A knee-jerking public coupled with corporate denials don’t help the masses. At some point, perhaps we’ll find a symbiotic balance of accountability, responsibility and quantifiable action from all parties involved.

  5. Laughysaphy says:

    Yeah there’s no way Nestle was surprised by the accusations of child labor. Every year their lobbyist would show up for state session to lobby for Nestle to have rights to the natural spring water. Strangely enough, there was always bipartisan support for smacking them down. Very satisfying.

    • Shirleygailgal says:

      Not here in BC, Canada…former premier Christy Clark allowed them a contract to purchase hundreds of thousands of gallons of our fresh, natural spring water, bottle it (single use plastic) and sell it back to us at an exorbitant mark-up. I wish there was bipartisan support for smacking them down. … I’ve made a point of drinking tap water, carrying my reusable water jugs openly and BEGGING my son to stop purchasing them (but on a construction site, he appreciates the convenience, and doesn’t like smelling the chlorine). I got hooked on bottled water initially as a good thing, because I was finally drinking water. When I learnt of Nestle’s corporate practices…I was done. I’m grateful for the quality of our drinking water (let it stand for a minute and the chlorine evaporates, leaving no taste behind). Oh, and their contract is for many decades

      • Snazzy says:

        I think there’s the same sort of deal in Ontario, isn’t there? It makes me sick to my stomach

      • Angel says:

        @Shirleygaildal – Tell your son to research filtered sports bottles. Like the Berkey Sport Water Bottle. (I’m not affiliated, but have one.) That way, he can use tap water or water fountain water to drink, but still be drinking filtered water. And there’s no chlorine.

  6. ChillyWilly says:

    I’m sorry but if I were a celebrity I would never endorse a product without thoroughly researching their business practices. I would be mortified to find out child labor was used to produce a product I get paid to promote. There is no excuse. It’s even worse coming from Clooney who, along with his wife, claim to be humanitarians.

  7. Dee says:

    Yesterday I spoke with someone on twitter who lives in a country with child labour. She said that while it would be great if the farmer’s conditions improved, it will be devastating if nespresso stops operating there. There’s a big vicious cycle of poverty. And the reality is that if these big companies stop their businesses, the framers and their children will be homeless and their other options are much much worse than working in the fields.
    So it’s much more complex than we think. I wish these big corporations would have a smidgen of consciousness and invest in improving the conditions. Because they definitely have the resources.

    • Becklu says:

      You are right it’s very complex, and consumers are very much part of the problem, along with governments and businesses.

      We as consumers should hold companies responsible and governments (Like our state department) should invest in these countries To help them build infrastructure and schools. I will also say that any trade deals (which I support) should include human and labor rights requirements.

      But this is complicated and I’m glad it’s being reported on.

  8. Becklu says:

    Nestle is not appalled they use child SLAVE labor in Africa for its coco production. A quick google search shows this. Most of the most popular foods are doing this.

  9. Emmet says:

    To Cloons, or whoever reads these comments for him.

    Quit, resign the board, and give back the money.
    You will never get a resolution from Nestle.

  10. Bread and Circuses says:

    Nestle has been caught using *slave* labour multiple times, on multiple continents.

    Nestle was not surprised.

    And we should all be boycotting Nestle products ruthlessly. Sorry, George.

  11. Lou says:

    Sad. I definitely don’t believe that George wasn’t aware. He just didn’t care about it. It’s ironic that he uses the Nestle money to spy Sudan (which is a good thing if he is not only being phony) but doesn’t care for human rights for the children in other countries. Also isn’t his wife a lawyer?