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'Saddened' Nespresso ambassador Clooney says firm has work to do over 'child labour' at coffee farms

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George Clooney Nespresso ad

George Clooney Nespresso ad

George Clooney Nespresso ad

Actor George Clooney has said he is "surprised and saddened" after an investigation revealed child labour at Guatemalan coffee farms linked to the Nespresso coffee he advertises.

The investigation carried out by Channel 4 Dispatches shows children working on six farms.

They allegedly supply coffee beans to Nestle- owned giant Nespresso, where Clooney is brand ambassador.

"Clearly this board and this company still have work to do, and that work will be done," Clooney said in a statement.

The star, who worked on his family's tobacco farm in Kentucky during holidays as a child, said he was "uniquely aware of the complex issues regarding farming and child labour".

Nespresso, headquartered in Switzerland, says it sources its coffee beans ethically and said it was investigating the claims.

"We have immediately stopped purchases of coffee from all farms in the region and we will not resume purchases until we are able to investigate and be assured that child labour is not being used," said chief executive Guillaume Le Cunff.

Nespresso said it works alongside NGOs including the Rainforest Alliance to ensure certain standards are upheld.

Sacks

The Dispatches documentary is set to feature video footage of children as young as 11 working on at least one farm in Guatemala alleged to supply Nespresso.

Since Nespresso, was contacted by the programme makers, it revealed it had found 15 of its farms across the world raised reports of child labour in the past four years, with none in Guatemala.

It added: "Nespresso has zero tolerance of child labour. It is unacceptable. Where there are claims that our high standards are not met, we act immediately."

A total of six farms were filmed by Dispatches, all with children picking coffee beans or hauling heavy sacks. Mr Le Cunff said the firm had stopped buying coffee in regions under the spotlight.

"The idea is to really be on the ground, go farm by farm, and we really think that this programme can have a positive impact," he said.

The company said it has also doubled the number of spot checks carried out at farms in the Fraijanes region, and Mr Le Cunff has dispatched the head of its own ethical AAA labelling alongside the Rainforest Alliance.

He added that questions would be raised with the company's NGO partner to improve audits of coffee farms, although he admitted farms are given "a day or two days'" advanced notice of spot checks.

Current rules to gain Nespresso's own ethical labelling must include no child or forced labour, although workers are only expected to be paid the local minimum wage, which is €8.30 a day in Guatemala.

Dispatches, which is broadcast on Monday at 9pm, is also expected to allege that poor pay is forcing children to help support families by working rather than going to school.

Nespresso bosses say it pays a 40pc premium for coffee to farmers, although the only control over the pay to pickers is by asking for local minimum wage laws to be enforced.

The firm declined an interview with Dispatches, saying it was unwilling to without the names of the farms identified ahead of broadcast.