ADDRESSING CHILD LABOR ALLEGATIONS IN GUATEMALA

CONTEXT

In March 2020, a British TV channel reported that child labor was taking place on coffee farms that supply Nespresso in the Guatemala Fraijanes region. We immediately launched an investigation and, in April 2020, identified three confirmed cases of child labor out of the 374 farms that supply coffee to Nespresso in the Fraijanes region.

As a result of the investigation, Nespresso has devised six key immediate actions (see below) to promote the safety of children within the coffee growing communities of Guatemala.

 

NESPRESSO POSITION ON CHILD LABOR

Nespresso has a zero tolerance of child labor. It is unacceptable. Where there are claims that our high standards are not met, we act immediately. The prohibition of child labor is a key component of the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program. This Program was developed in 2003 in cooperation with the NGO the Rainforest Alliance, in compliance with the International Labor Organisation (ILO) standards. Coffee farmers must comply with our zero tolerance to child labor as a pre-requisite in order to join our AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program. More than 110,000 farmers are part of the Nespresso AAA Program in 15 countries.

 

THE NESPRESSO GUATEMALA CHILD LABOR ACTION PLAN – 6 KEY ACTIONS

The Nespresso Guatemala Child Labor Action Plan has been developed to tackle the complex issue of child labor and its root causes in the country.

The following six actions are being implemented by Nespresso as short-term, immediate approach to tackle child labor in Guatemala. As a second step, a deeper analysis into the root causes of child labor in the country and specifically the Fraijanes region will be conducted by the Fair Labor Association (FLA) during the 2020/2021 harvest to inform Nespresso’s long-term action plan:
 

  1. We have doubled the team of agronomists in Guatemala and have hired dedicated social workers who will support the local families who grow and harvest coffee during the upcoming harvest to safeguard their children and reinforce Nespresso’s zero tolerance child labor policy;
  2. We have agreed with our NGO partner the Rainforest Alliance to undertake independent monitoring and unannounced visits, which will become part of their new standards and procedures. We have tasked Enveritas, another of our NGO partners, to conduct unannounced visits and independent monitoring specifically on child labour in the farms during harvest. Our agronomists will also perform unannounced visits;
  3. We are reinforcing detailed record-keeping and documentation for temporary workers and their families to ensure fair remuneration;
  4. We are expanding a pilot project 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;
  5. We are increasing the number of dedicated education and awareness sessions on the risks of child labor for cooperatives, agronomists and farmers;
  6. We have implemented a confidential communication and grievance hotline over mobile app for the next harvest season to enable third parties to report any incidents of suspected child labor.

 
In addition, we are creating a network of local organisations, the Community Child Labour Committee (CCLC), in order to support and work with us on remediation activities in case a child labor case is uncovered. With the FLA, we will identify and engage specialized civil society organizations and other local agencies as part of this committee. Working in collaboration and under advisement from key local stakeholders is paramount to ensure that appropriate actions are taken on the ground to bring a positive change moving forward. The FLA will review all our AAA Program policies and procedures regarding child labor and working conditions more broadly and provide recommendations for improvement.

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 labor. 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 labor. 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.

 

 

OUR LONG-TERM PLAN TO TACKLE CHILD LABOR – ANALYSIS OF THE ROOT CAUSES

Nespresso will work closely with the Fair Labor Association (FLA), an NGO with expertise in labor rights, to undertake a root cause analysis to further understand the labor, social, economic, and cultural components related to child labor and find solutions to this complex issue in Guatemala, through engagement of supply chains actors, growers, and workers. The root cause analysis and action planning will be carried out during the 2020/2021 harvest season.
 
Child labor is an incredibly complex problem, there is no easy answer to combat this complicated issue. We believe that we make a difference thanks to our on the ground presence, and efforts to raise awareness and educate farmers and suppliers on the risks of child labor.

We will continue to do all we can to stamp out child labor. It has no place in our supply chain.

 

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 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. Because of the unforeseen impact of Covid-19, the remediation plan with the three farms we found in breach of our policies was halted for several months. The process has now restarted and will finish during the month of November.

“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,” said Guillaume Le Cunff.

 

 

WHAT NESPRESSO’S PARTNERS SAY ABOUT NESPRESSO’S ACTION PLAN

 
“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.”

 

Videos

Addressing child labour allegations

The Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program

Nespresso's Position on Child Labour

William Warshauer, President and CEO of TechnoServe, on the Nespresso AAA Program

Tackling Child Labour