Starbucks coffee bean farms employing children 'as young as eight'
A human right's lawyer privy to the documentary footage proclaims that the evidence suggests both companies are in breach of international labor laws.
By ZACHARY KEYSER
Starbucks is being accused of breaching child labor laws after it was revealed by United Kingdom-based Channel 4's Dispatches that children under the age of thirteen, and some looking as young as eight, were allegedly working on farms in Guatemala picking coffee beans being supplied to the large American coffee franchise.Dispatches filmed the children working demanding 40-hour work weeks, earning daily wages that amount to around two large cups of Starbucks coffee. Around five of the documented farms using child labor were connected to Starbucks, another seven were linked to fueling the Nespresso supply chain, which is owned by food and drink processing conglomerate Nestle.Some of the children worked six days a week, for eight hours a day. The wages were dependent on the child's daily harvested load, with many youngsters earning $6.4 a day on average, in some cases less than 25 cents an hour - loads could oftentimes weigh up to 45 kg.A human right's lawyer privy to the documentary footage proclaims that the evidence suggests both companies are in breach of international labor laws according to guidelines set by the United Nations International Labor Organization.“The conventions are very clear in that they don’t want children’s education to be compromised. If children are working 40 hours a week, there is no way they can also be having a proper education,” said Oliver Holland of solicitors Leigh Day. “These are all unsafe conditions for children essentially, and in those conditions children simply shouldn’t be working.”Dispatches calculated, for every £2.50 spent on a cup of coffee from Starbucks, 88 pence goes to the store. Around 63 pence goes to staff wages, 38 pence for taxes. Starbucks itself earns 25 pence - leaving 10 pence for the coffee suppliers, of which 1 pence goes to paying the workers.Both Nespresso and Starbucks commented on the Dispatches' investigation spearheaded by reporter Anthony Barnett.“[Starbucks has] zero tolerance for child labour anywhere in our supply chain. We’ve launched a full investigation into the claims brought by Channel 4, carried out in partnership with a leading third-party auditor," the company told Dispatches, adding that since the investigation Starbucks has "not purchased coffee from the farms in question during the most recent harvest season."“We remain concerned and are taking action due to the fact that these farms were verified in 2019 against our ethical sourcing standards, which are the most comprehensive in the coffee industry,” said Michelle Burns, Starbucks global head of coffee, according to the Guardian.“Nespresso has zero tolerance of child labour. It is unacceptable. Where there are claims that our high standards are not met, we act immediately. In this case, we’ve launched a thorough investigation to find out which farms were filmed and whether they supply Nespresso. We will not 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," said Nespresso CEO Guillaume Le Cunff.