Nespresso and sustainability – A step in the right direction, but much more to be done

Nespresso have launched a new Global Campaign to highlight their new sustainability programme. The main ad was created by J Walter Thompson Worldwide, and is called “The choices we make” and it tells the story of the community mill built by the brand in Jardin, Colombia, and the economic, social and environmental benefits it delivered.

This is a departure from previous campaigns and aims to tell the stories of the people behind the coffee.


Helping farmers save up to 5 hours a day with a community mill in Jardin, Colombia

Working directly with farmers in Colombia, Nespresso realized that coffee was processed differently on each farm, making it hard to guarantee consistent coffee quality. To address the issue, the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program worked with a local cooperative in Jardin to build a Community Mill, where farmers could bring their coffee cherries and have them transformed into coffee beans in the most consistent and qualitative way. But not only did the Community Mill help preserve the inherently high quality of the coffee, it did much more. Farmers were now able to generate more revenue thanks to their higher quality coffee, as well as saving precious time since the processing was centralised, and not happening on their farms. Today during the harvest, farmers can save up to 5 hours a day – time and energy they are able to reinvest in their families, communities and personal passions.

The farmers behind the Nespresso coffees

Meet Humberto, a dedicated coffee farmer who benefits from the Community Mill. He has been able to support his daughter’s passion for butterflies all the way to University where she is currently studying biology, thanks to the time and resources he saved by processing his coffee centrally. “Personally, I wanted Andrea to study to be a nurse but she can do whatever she wants. She loves nature and wanted to study biology. I just want her to do what makes her happy and I’m so proud of her.”

Esteban used to process his coffee on his father’s farm but today he benefits from the Community Mill. A young father of two, he now has more time to spend with his sons as well as volunteering as a fireman in his community. “I got into firefighting to help people,” Esteban explains before talking about his family. “This is all for my sons, all my work is for them and one day it will be theirs. I couldn’t be happier with the Community Mill. As long as Nespresso will buy my coffee, I’ll keep selling it to them.”

Luis can now pass on his passion for fishing to his son Mathias, spending much more time outside together. Another benefit of the Community Mill is it has improved water management practices and helped clean up rivers in the region: “Before, if you wanted to go swimming in the river, you had to leave your shoes on, that’s how polluted it was. The Community Mill has had great impact on the community, we’re helping to keep rivers clean and preserve the environment as a whole.”

Alfonso Gonzalez, Nespresso Chief Marketing Officer explains “All these stories showcase just how much our choices to preserve the best quality coffee through a sustainable approach can have amazing consequences on the people who grow and nurture it. We wanted to bring them to coffee drinkers to help them understand what is behind the coffee they enjoy every day. In the end, we believe that we are the choices we make.”

The Campaign

As well as the 60-second TV ad, which launches today and will run in every market in which the brand is sold, is accompanied by a quartet of two minute films – “The fisherman”, “The guardian”, “The fireman” and “The community mill” – exploring the facility in more detail.

George Clooney also voices the new ad, and is credited on-screen, he does not appear on camera.

The Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program

The Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality programme, was developed with the Rainforest Alliance. The RA state: “The Rainforest Alliance and Nespresso have worked together for a decade to help farmers produce sustainable, high-quality coffee that enables them to improve their livelihoods and steward the natural resources on which they depend. Today, more than 56,000 farmers are part of the AAA Program and have benefited from greatly improved yields and great improvements in the quality of the coffee they grow, while also implementing comprehensive conservation practices on their farms.

A growing number of these AAA farmers have achieved the required Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) Standard and are gaining Rainforest Alliance certification. A recent independent study by the Colombian organization CRECE assessed the social, environmental and economic impacts among 1,000 farmers in the AAA Program, including those that have earned Rainforest Alliance certification. The study found that farmers in the AAA Program had a net income 87.4 percent higher than the control group.”

It is great to see the RA getting involved but it is important to note that only around 40% of the coffee Nespresso uses is actually RA certified, while limited editions have been Fairtrade certified.

Past Problems for the brand (from Wikipedia)

Nespresso are a brand who have had problems with their image, primarily due to the waste created by their coffee capsules (and the reputation of parent company Nestle). They have aimed to tackle this over the last few years by creating a capsule recycling programme. The programme has been met with mixed results with the parent company Nestlé itself stating a current rate of 50% in Switzerland and Germany, but only 2% in France. The proportion of recycled aluminum in the capsules is not exactly known, but is estimated to be greater than 80% of capsules produced (per annum) as of 2015. The company has launched a program called “écolaboration” to try to remedy the problem. The program set out with certain “road map goals” around recycling and sustainability – the program targets were met in 2014, and a new sustainability program was launched: “The Positive Cup”.

In addition to the recycling programme discussed above, Nespresso states ‘ecolaboration’ includes a AAA sustainability programme, focused on helping farmers who grow and supply Nespresso coffee. Nespresso claims it does this by teaching farmers best business and growing practices. The company claims participating farmers are not obliged to sell to Nespresso, although the company says many choose to as Nespresso claims to offer a fair price for the coffee and help in all aspects of the farmers’ business. Nespresso offer up to a 40% premium on the price of beans, and no contracts are held between the approx. 63,000 farms that supply Nespresso.

Our Thoughts

When I first got this press release I was going to put it in the news section but I also wanted to highlight some of the overall concerns about Nespresso as well as highlighting some of the good things they have done in the past, so I decided to make it a bit more detailed article. It is complicated when dealing with a company such as this, as the pods are environmentally problematic, though they are trying to tackle that. That being said it is also important to note that some brands are now using completely biodegradable pods which cut out the need for recycling. The recycling programme is good, more details: if you have some pods and wish to recycle them, but it still only dealing with a proportionally small number of pods and that needs to be addressed. They also need to make sure 100% of their coffee is RA approved or fairtrade and need to create a more sustainable future for the brand. The brand is also tainted by some of the many unethical things their parent company has done, and continues to do. They are obviously trying to make a difference to how they do things and that is to be commended but they do need to do more if they wish to be seen as a sustainable brand, and get out from the long shadow their parent company sheds. Meantime though they need to be careful to tell the whole story for fear of being accused of greenwashing.

There is still a long way to go but good to see them moving in the right direction, more initiatives like this and making 100% of their coffee RA approved and they will be well on the way. I do not want this to be an attack on a company who is trying to move more in the correct direction, and I feel it is important to praise companies when they do the right thing as it will encourage them to do more. I would like to see more initiatives like this and it’s great that they have their Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality programme but I would like to see 100% of their product RA certified and a greater push towards recycling their pods and devloping a more environmental alternative.


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