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Nespresso announces Action Plan to address child labor allegations in Guatemala

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland – Nespresso has announced the results of its investigation into child labour after facing allegations several weeks ago. The investigation, which involved a dedicated team of agronomists working full-time on the ground in the Fraijanes region of Guatemala, visiting farmers, workers and co-operative representatives over a four-week period, was conducted as an immediate response to the potential existence of child labour on farms that supply Nespresso, to both ensure that children are protected, and to inform constructive actions that will better combat the complex issue of child labor and its root causes.

Out of 374 visited farms in the region that supply Nespresso, the investigation identified three confirmed cases of child labor in AAA farms, and firm action has been taken.

As a result of the investigation, Nespresso has devised six key immediate actions to promote the safety of children within the coffee growing communities of Guatemala. The actions being implemented by Nespresso form a short-term, immediate approach to tackle child labour in Guatemala. As a second step, a deeper analysis into the root causes of child labour in the country and specifically the Fraijanes region will be conducted with specialist NGOs to inform Nespresso’s longer term action plan.

Nespresso ’s Action Plan

The Nespresso Guatemala Child Labour Action Plan has been developed as an immediate approach, which will be complemented by a deep analysis to identify any additional initiatives required to combat the complex issue of child labour and its root causes. It features the following six key actions:

1. Nespresso will double its team of agronomists in Guatemala by the end of June, and hire dedicated social workers before the harvest season to support local families in safeguarding their children and reinforce child labour policy across the country;

2. The company will implement spot checks and unannounced visits to farms, and independent monitoring of child labour in AAA farms in Guatemala during harvest season;

3. Nespresso will reinforce the use by all farmers in the AAA Program globally of detailed records and working documentation for temporary workers and their families, which will be crosschecked with workers, to ensure all of them are fairly and properly remunerated;

4. The company will expand a successful pilot project that it ran in Guatemala during the 2019/20 harvest season with a local NGO that provides child friendly spaces on farms during harvest, helping parents to mitigate the safety risks of leaving their children unattended at home. These safe places for migrant pickers’ children on farms provide education and meals to them, while their parents work in the farm. The facilities also offer basic medical consultation for the children. Nespresso plans to expand from three to 20 centres across the country;

5. Nespresso will increase the number of dedicated education and awareness sessions on the risks of child labour for cooperatives, agronomists and farmers, ensuring individual sessions with each stakeholder, in addition to the education and training that is already provided as part of the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program globally;

6. Nespresso will trial a grievance hotline during the next harvest season to enable third parties to report any incidents of suspected child labour for follow-up by the Nespresso team on the ground.

In addition, Nespresso has requested the Rainforest Alliance, one of the foremost NGOs in certifying coffee farms with respect to ethical and sustainable production, to address the question of notice provided to farms prior to certification audits, as all the farms supplying Nespresso in the region are Rainforest Alliance certified.

Nespresso had temporarily paused all coffee purchases from AAA farms in the Fraijanes region while the investigation was ongoing, but this has now been lifted.

Guillaume Le Cunff, CEO of Nespresso, said: “Protecting children from exploitation is of paramount importance to us. It’s critical for companies such as ours to work hand-in-hand with coffee farming communities to combat this issue, which is complex and driven by a variety of economic, social and cultural factors. There is no easy answer. We have acted quickly not only to investigate the issue, but also to implement immediate, concrete actions to address it. We will continue working with our different partners to devise longer-term strategies to protect children and have a positive impact on the local farming communities within the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program.

This action plan comes on top of the regular work done by the dedicated Nespresso AAA agronomists, who assess and raise awareness of social and environmental performance (including child protection) when they visit AAA farms, as part of their overall support to farmers to increase productivity and yields of high quality coffee, which directly leads to improved incomes.

Economic factors are a major driver in child labour. Nespresso continues to pay a premium to farmers for their AAA coffee, which is proven to improve the welfare of coffee farming communities and reduce the risk of child labour. Nespresso already pays the highest prices for coffee in the region of Fraijanes.

Our action plan is already being implemented and will be monitored closely to ensure it makes a tangible difference to properly protect children in the coffee farming communities with whom we work. These actions complement our existing, ongoing work direct with AAA farmers in the region – the overwhelming majority of whom fully respect child labour regulations. We know that the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program has had a significant, positive impact on farmers, farm workers and farming communities in Guatemala and around the world, and we are committed to continuing this work,” continued Guillaume Le Cunff.

The Investigation Results

There are 616 farms in the region, of which 374 are part of the AAA Program and supply coffee to Nespresso. The investigation into allegations of child labour involved a Nespresso team of 10 agronomists working full-time on the ground in the Fraijanes region of Guatemala, looking into practices, processes and conditions in all 374 farms.

Given that the allegations related to a period of school vacation, the investigators were particularly careful to distinguish between cases where children were helping their parents legitimately, mitigating the safety risks of leaving children unattended at home, and cases of child labour which contravene local and international standards, for which Nespresso has a clear zero-tolerance approach.

The investigation identified three confirmed cases of child labour in AAA farms. In line with the requirements of the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program, all three farms have now been temporarily excluded from the AAA Program, and Nespresso will not buy any more coffee from them until the situation has been resolved, and they provide proof that they comply with ILO’s (International Labour Organization) child protection requirements. Nespresso has initiated a remediation plan with the farmers concerned, providing the support of the local agronomists during a 90-day resolution period to enable them to remediate and comply with the company’s requirements relating to child labour, as well as with local and international laws. Farms that can prove that they have resolved the situation will be reinstated into the AAA Program.

Child protection is critical for us. We are working closely with our partners in Guatemala and around the world to raise awareness and educate farmers and suppliers on the risks of child labour, and ensure we do everything we can to minimise the possibility of this happening in the future. This issue is, and always will be, a priority for us,” concluded Guillaume Le Cunff.

What Nespresso ’s partners say about Nespresso’s Action Plan

The Rainforest Alliance has a long and important relationship with Nespresso. While we don’t have the final outcome of the Rainforest Alliance’s own investigation yet, I am confident that Nespresso’s commitment to people, nature and sustainability is not just sincere, but a core component of their values. We are grateful for Nespresso’s longstanding dedication to farmers, their families, and for the overall wellbeing of the planet.

Daniel Katz, Board Chairman, Rainforest Alliance

As a member of the Nespresso Sustainability Advisory Board, I am pleased that the company has invited Fairtrade to share with them our rights-based approach to child labour elimination and child protection. While coffee was not being purchased from the farms in Fraijnes on Fairtrade terms, the fact that Nespresso shared the results of their independent investigation with us and invited us to provide feedback speaks greatly about the company’s willingness to incorporate our knowledge and learnings into the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program. As partners, we can develop programs to secure prolonged safety to children withdrawn from child labour, while working with farmers and their communities to design prevention projects to ensure children’s rights are respected.

Dario Soto Abril, CEO, Fairtrade International

Coffee is part of our culture in Guatemala and we teach our kids how to grow and work with it. Our farms and this knowledge is our heritage to them. As a kid I was taught by my father how to pick coffee. He showed me the value of work, and today I’m also a teacher in local schools. All children in the communities around here go to school. Children help out with harvesting, like kids help with farming in Europe for example. It is light work, done for a few hours, strictly during school holidays. Taking care of our children, respecting their rights, with schooling being a priority, and keeping them safe is very important to us.

Luis Aroldo Muñoz Lorenzana – Coffee farmer and school teacher – Cooperativa Nuevo Sendero