Children in Guatemala spend eight hours a day, six days a week picking beans of coffee for surprisingly low wages considering the prices applied by these corporations.
Children under 13 in Guatemala are working in the coffee farms that supply beans to giants Nespresso (owned by Nestle) and Starbucks, an investigation by British television program 'Dispatches' uncovered last week.
During their research, Channel 4's reporters visited seven farms supplying Nespresso and five supplying Starbucks. All of the farms were employing children who, for some, "looked" as young as eight.
The investigation found that the children spend eight hours a day and six days per week picking coffee in backbreaking conditions for wages depending on the weight of beans they manage to gather. A child earns less than US$6 a day on a good day, though much of the time the wage is much lower.
A human rights lawyer warned that both companies are in violation of international labor laws.
“The conventions are very clear in that they don’t want children’s education to be compromised,” said Oliver Holland of Britain-based law firm Leigh Day.
“If children are working 40 hours a week, there is no way they can also be having a proper education,” Holland added.
Nespresso and Starbucks said their brands do not tolerate child labor and they would launch investigations into the claims brought by the program.
Dispatches reporter Antony Barnett shared some of the findings with actor George Clooney, Nespresso’s advertising face.
“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,” Clooney, who is part of Nespresso’s sustainability advisory board stated last week.
“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.”
Barnett responded that “it’s great that George Clooney supports [the] 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.“