Children as young as eight years old have been found to be working in the supply chain for large scale coffee providers Starbucks and Nespresso after an investigation aired in the UK just a few days ago.
The investigation from the UK’s Channel 4 program ‘Dispatches’ found that a number of children under the age of 13 were being employed at its Guatemalan coffee farms for as little as sixty-cents an hour. The Dispatches team visited seven farms that were linked to Nespresso, and five farms that were part of the larger Starbucks supply chain, and
The Guardian is writing that “some of the children, who worked around eight hours a day, six days a week, looked as young as eight.
They were paid depending on the weight of the beans they picked, with sacks weighing up to 45kg. Typically, a child would earn less than $9 a day, although sometimes it could be as low as sixty-cents an hour.”
Oliver Holland, a solicitor reviewed the program and said that the companies mentioned are in violation of international labour regulations handed down by the UN’s International Labour Organisation. “The conventions are very clear in that they don’t want children’s education to be compromised,” he said.
“If children are working 40 hours a week, there is no way they can also be having a proper education. These are all unsafe conditions are children essentially, and in those conditions, children simply shouldn’t be working,” Holland added.
Hollywood star and face of the Nespresso advertising campaign and member of the Nespresso sustainability board said that he was saddened by the findings of the investigation. “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. I would hope that this reporter will continue to investigate these conditions and report accurately if they do not improve,” he said.
“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,” he added.
Nespresso’s chief executive, Guillaume Le Cunff said that “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’ve launched a thorough investigation to find out which farmers 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,” they added.
Starbucks echoed the message of Nespresso, deploring child labour entering its supply chain and adding that the company has “zero tolerance for child labour anywhere in our supply chain.”
“We’ve launched a full investigation into the claims brought by Channel 4, carried out in partnership with a leading third-party auditor,” it said, adding that the company has “not purchased coffee from the farms in question during the most recent harvest season.”
“We remain concerned and are taking action due to the fact that these farms were verified in 2019 against our ethical sourcing standards, which are the most comprehensive in the coffee industry,” Starbucks’ global head of coffee, Michelle Burns said.
Channel 4 reporter, Antony Barnett told the Guardian that “it’s great that George Clooney supports our investigation, but if he is serious about sorting out this issue, he needs to make sure Nespresso puts its money where its mouth is.”
“It’s far too easy to announce an investigation and halt supplies from these regions but this will further punish the farmers and desperately poor families who rely on them. The reason these kids are working is that their parents - and the farms they work on - are not paid enough,” he concluded.