George Clooney is speaking out after child labor allegations surfaced against Nespresso. The 58-year-old actor, who serves as the face of the coffee brand, tells ET in a statement that he was "surprised and saddened" to learn of the claims.
According to Deadline, who was the first to report the news, Anthony Barnett, a reporter for the British show Dispatches, saw children working in Guatemala when he was given access to farms there. The country is the world's 10th largest coffee producer.
"Having grown up working on a tobacco farm from the time I was 12 I’m uniquely aware of the complex issues regarding farming and child labor," the statement reads. "That's why I joined the Sustainability advisory board of Nespresso seven years ago along with the Rainforest Alliance, Fair Trade International, and the Fair Labour Association among many others with the goal then, as it remains to this day to improve the lives of farmers. Make their farms more profitable. More sustainable. More safe."
"I’m enormously proud of the success of their efforts. They’ve improved the lives and livelihoods of thousands of farms all around the world. They’ve risked their lives trying to rebuild farms in South Sudan and spent a year on the ground helping farmers restore their farms in Puerto Rico after the hurricane," the statement continues. "The simple truth is that this program is overwhelmingly positive for coffee farmers around the world."
Despite all of the company's efforts, Clooney's statement notes that it is "also imperative to have talented investigative reporters showing the board where they have yet to succeed."
"We knew it was a big project when it started seven years ago, and honestly I was surprised and saddened to see this story," the statement reads. "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," the statement concludes. "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."
In addition, Guillaume Le Cunff, the CEO of Nespresso, tells ET in a statement that the company has "zero tolerance of child labor," which he deemed "unacceptable." Le Cunff's statement also notes that the company has "launched a thorough investigation to find out which farms were filmed and whether they supply Nespresso," adding that they won't "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," the statement reads. "We work with Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade International to reinforce good working practices and fair treatment of workers, including education on the dangers of child labor. We invest heavily in this effort; in 2019, our 400 agronomists made over 170,000 farm visits and trainings across the world, including 60,000 detailed on farm sustainability assessments. This was backed up by more than 3,300 third party verification farm audits."
"We will continue to do all we can to stamp child labor out," the statement concludes. "It has no place in our supply chain."