Since announcing its certification in April 2022, Nestlé-owned Nespresso has found itself at the centre of the debate around B Corp.
Here, Nespresso UK & Ireland sustainability manager Mary Child responds to some of the key criticisms levelled against the business
Q: Some have argued that Nespresso’s status as a B Corp dilutes the meaning of B Corp accreditation as a ‘gold standard’. What’s your response to that?
A: We are proud to have achieved B Corp certification after a comprehensive B Impact Assessment that required detailed evidence and supporting data. For us, B Corp reflects a consistent commitment to sustainability for almost 40 years. It provides a benchmark for us to measure our actions against, highlighting our weaknesses as well as our strengths, and a roadmap for us to improve and accelerate our actions.
Q: Some suggest allegations of human rights violations in Nespresso’s supply chain should preclude Nespresso from B Corp status. What do you say to that?
A: We have zero tolerance for poor worker conditions and child labour. Both are unacceptable, and where there are claims that our high standards are not met, we act immediately.
At the time of certification, we shared with B Corp the extensive work we do in coffee farming regions to tackle the complex factors that contribute to the causes of child labour. We have worked with the Fair Labor Association to develop and monitor policies on child labour and working conditions through our Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality Program, helping to strengthen our approach to human rights in our supply chain.
Q: Others have pointed to the inherent waste in a company focused on single-use coffee capsules. What is your response?
A: Nespresso’s precision consumption method uses exactly the right amount of energy, water and coffee to produce each cup. This is particularly important because the biggest proportion of our carbon footprint is the supply of green coffee, so aside from saving resources and reducing waste, this approach minimises our overall carbon footprint.
According to an independent life cycle assessment (LCA) conducted by Quantis, a cup of Nespresso coffee has a lower environmental impact than a comparable cup of coffee made using a full automat machine.
To become a B Corp, we had to undergo a comprehensive B Impact Assessment, which includes questions covering environmental impact.
We were required to share information on a wide range of initiatives, including our work in the UK as co-founder of Podback, a nationwide coffee capsule recycling scheme that launched in 2021. In fact, Nespresso has provided recycling solutions in the UK for over 12 years.