Actor George Clooney has spoken out after a TV investigation appeared to show children working at farms used by coffee manufacturer Nespresso – a brand he has long been associated with.
Hollywood star Clooney has appeared in adverts as the face of the company, which promotes its products as ethically sourced from countries such as Brazil, Costa Rica and Colombia, for some years now. But a new episode of Channel 4’s investigative programme Dispatches claims to have found child labourers working on farms in the region which supply Nespresso.
“We knew it was a big project when it started seven years ago, and honestly I was surprised and saddened to see this story,” said Clooney in a statement. “Clearly this board and this company still have work to do – and that work will be done.”
He added: “I would hope that this reporter (Anthony Barnett) will continue to investigate these conditions and report accurately if they do not improve.”
A spokesperson for Nespresso has said the company will no longer buy coffee from farms in part of Guatemala, which the Channel 4 programme focuses on. The brand also said it had launched an investigation to identify the farms featured in the Dispatches footage, and said the use of child labour was “unacceptable”.
Clooney, who also sits on Nespresso’s sustainability advisory board, defended the company’s sustainability programme, claiming it had been “overwhelmingly positive for coffee farmers”.
“[It has] improved the lives and livelihoods of thousands of farms all around the world,” he said. “And 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.”
This isn’t the first time Clooney’s involvement with the brand has come under scrutiny. In a 2013 interview with The Guardian, which went viral again last year, the Ocean’s Eleven star confirmed that he’d been using the money he earned from advertising Nespresso coffee to help fund a satellite that was “keeping an eye” on a Sudanese dictator.