Ethical Coffee Pods vs Nespresso
I received my latest copy of the Ethical Consumer Magazine through the post recently, and the big focus this issue is on coffee. I had a read, and it didn’t come as much of a surprise to see that Nespresso brand coffee pods are right at the bottom of the pile when it comes to ethics. I have briefly looked into this before, and stopped buying Nespresso brand pods on the back of my research, but this issue of Ethical Consumer prompted me to do a bit of a deep dive into the issue. I’m a fan of my Nespresso machine, but don’t want to give any more of my money to such a problematic company, so what is the answer?
What’s wrong with Nespresso?
Many of us have been exposed to the suave Nespresso TV ads where we see George Clooney casually sipping an espresso, and the sleek and stylish looking Nespresso shops themselves, where you can stop and sample whichever coffee you fancy. The whole brand is enticing and it’s easy to be drawn in. I love my Nespresso machine, bought long before I had my twins, and I’m a particular fan of how easy it is to make myself a quick coffee that, to my admittedly unrefined palate, feels worthy of a fancy coffee house. Despite this, I cannot ignore the fact that Nespresso is a problematic company, and while I don’t intend on throwing my machine away as long as it’s in working order, I am always on the hunt for non-Nespresso, ethical coffee pods that are compatible with the machine.
The main problem with Nespresso is that it’s a Nestlé-owned company. Nestlé got themselves into hot water in the 1970s with regards to Baby Milk Action, and are still facing the consequences now. If you don’t know about the scandal, I thoroughly recommend looking into it. When it comes to coffee, there have been various allegations of child slavery on Guatemalan coffee farms that are part of the Nespresso supply chain – these allegations have been made as recently as 2020, and show that measures used to ensure coffee is produced without child slavery had not been taken seriously enough.
Following the 2020 allegations of child slavery, investigative measures were taken and it was confirmed that at least three of the coffee farms in the Nespresso supply chain did indeed use child slave labour. Nespresso made some changes to the way they worked with their suppliers, but many people felt that the measures taken were too little too late, and that they were only taken because Nespresso had been outed.
From my own research, I freely admit that Nespresso have started making some positive changes to their supply process, but that it’s not enough for me.
What to use instead
If I don’t want to buy from Nespresso, but still want to use my Nespresso machine, I need a solution. There are countless options on the market when it comes to Nespresso compatible pods, but which (if any) are ethically produced?
The issue of Ethical Consumer Magazine that sparked this whole thought process has a handy table of which coffee companies supply what. The most ethical companies in the UK don’t tend to supply coffee pods that will work in Nespresso machines, but Café Nero do, and they stand on the middle ground when it comes to ethics. They have many areas to improve, including their stance on palm oil, environmental reporting, factory farming, and animal rights, but they rank higher than all other high street coffee chains! I feel that this is a reasonable interim solution while you look into more ethical alternatives, as they are easy to get hold of in store and online.
The most ethical coffee pods
It seems like if you, like me, are determined to find a more ethical approach to using a Nespresso machine, the best option is to step away from bigger companies and look to independent retailers instead. I’ve just stumbled upon this article from the Independent, which rates eco-friendly pods, but I’ve found some other great looking brands that aren’t mentioned there too;
When I put this dilemma to my Instagram friends, a few people suggested that I look into Grind coffee. Sure enough, Grind make coffee pods that are plastic free and fully compostable – they also claim to be ethical.
On the homepage for Grind Coffee, there is a simple table that compares Grind pods to Nespresso pods and it clearly outlines the areas in which Grind pods are better. In addition to being seemingly much more ethical, these pods work out cheaper than their Nespresso counterparts, and Grind is an independent British business which is a great bonus.
I love the fact that Grind works directly with smallholders around the world to source their coffee, and am pleased to see that they also make a considerable effort offset their carbon emissions!
Lost Sheep Coffee
Lost Sheep coffee shops have been on my radar since the first one opened up in a hut opposite Canterbury bus station, where I used to catch the bus to and from school every day! A quick look at the Lost Sheep website tells me that there are four different blends available when it comes to eco-friendly Nespresso-compatible pods, which is exciting.
The website listings for the packs of coffee pods are great as they tell the reader a bit more about where the coffee has come from, but the beans are carefully selected from small hold family run farms!
When it comes to what actually makes the coffee a more ethical alternative, there is a section on the website under the heading of ‘Being a Green Sheep’ where you can learn about how the pods are made from a waste product from the paper industry, and how the factory that makes the physical pods is run off hydro, solar, and wind power!
Halo coffee is another company that makes Nespresso compatible pods that are compostable. The pods themselves are created from a by-product of the sugar cane industry, and it’s fully home compostable which is wonderful. The Halō website claims that one of their pods can be broken down by home composting in just 28 days which is especially great news for any keen gardeners.
From what I can see, Halō have a wonderful blog where you can read about various aspects of green coffee pods.
Thanks to the eight coffee pod brands featured in the Independent article, and these extra three I’ve looked into, I feel like I’ve found plenty of alternatives to try. I’m going to see if I can get in touch with some of the brands that don’t write an awful lot about the type of farms that their coffee is sourced from, as I don’t want to buy a pod that’s fully compostable but contains coffee from a farm that enables child slavery.
I would love to hear about any other brands that people have come across when it comes to eco and ethical pods for Nespresso machines, so please do let me know if you know of one that I should try out!