Nespresso Ecolaboration: Green-washing?

Nespresso Hand and Coffee (ecolaboration)
Ecolaboration Website

Nespresso just launched it’s new Nespresso Ecolaboration website where they tell us how green they are. Let’s have a closer look at the whole thing. The first time I saw the website, I wasn’t totally sure what to think? Were they  totally green-washing me, or were they actually quite good at preserving the environment?

L’article en français est disponible
sur le site de Economie Magazine

The Coffee and the Rainforest Alliance

At the first glance, this looks like the really good point. But then you understand that for the moment only 50% of the coffee sold is certified by the Rainforest Alliance. Nespresso is hoping to reach 80% by 2013. It’s good but it’s not enough. And where is my 100% organic coffee? Why isn’t the production completely carbon neutral? Why isn’t the transport compensated with carbon reduction incentives?

Nespresso capsules (ecolaboration)

The Aluminium capsules

Ecolaborations main argument is: We do use aluminum capsules and aluminum is easily recyclable. Ok, I’m fine with this. But let’s have a closer look at the numbers. Which amount of the capsules are actually recycled? In Switzerland it is 60% (PDF) . I couldn’t find the numbers for other countries, but it seems it is way less. Around 10% maybe, even less, if someone has the numbers, I’ll be glad to hear and post them.

Also this doesn’t involve the “professional capsule problem”. Because those ones, you can’t recycle them, they are made with an aluminum-plastic mix which doesn’t allow to separate the raw materials at a reasonable energetic price. So they all end up in the trash bin. Pretty bad…

Aluminium is cool, but I think organic fiber capsules would be better. You still could ship them in nice reusable aluminum boxes. Boxes you could fold and freely ship back, maybe even getting free capsules for your good action. Or at least, just giving an incentive by offering a free coffee for each 100gr of capsule brought back to a recycling point, would for sure help rising recycling percentage.

There other ways like refilling the capsules which are good but not really user-friendly: Method N°1 or method N°2

Nespresso Greener machines (ecolaboration)

Greener Machines

“For a machine left on for 12 hours, the energy consumption to keep the machine ready to use is 140 watts per hour (Wh) per day, which is equivalent to 30kg CO2e per year. “ Nespresso

Basically, on the website, they tell you to turn of your machine after the last cup. Easy, isn’t it? They also say that for year 2013, their new machines which integrate an auto-standby mode (PDF), which would turn it of after 30min.

Ok, it’s not cool to wait next to the machine to heat up. My tip is to turn on the machine, wait a minute, let water pass through for a couple of second and there you are, ready for a hot coffee. I’m sure there is a way to build in a quick start button.
Or why not design a widget which would allow you to turn on the machine from you computer two minutes before you need it? Why not integrating a chip registering the energy consumption of your machine? If your energy consumption/coffee ratio is low, you get free capsules? The chip could also learn from your “coffee habits” automatically start at 6:58am for your morning coffee and then return to sleep.

Hum, and what is happening with my old machine? Nowhere the saying anything about recycling… there might be a reason why….

One coffee, 82g of Co2

Nespresso estimates (still needs peer review…) that the total C02 emissions generated from its operations is 82 grams of CO2e per cup. This means for a 5 coffee/day consumption, a total of 150 Kg of C02 per year, which means 750km with a small car (myclimate).

To much money for Marketing

Nespesso always has a good communication, nice websites, awesome packaging, cool TV ads and of course, Georges. They invest a lot into marketing and they do a lot of money. Nespresso Ecolaboration sound like a good start, but it’s to much words (& images). But I think this is a well executed green-washing. They could do so much more to improve their environment friendliness.

And you? What do you think? Do you feel green-washed?


by Yann Graf

Yann Graf
I am an experienced Digital Strategy Consultant based in Switzerland. After over seven year respectfully crafting and improving the digital presence of Terre des hommes, Nautilus and G-Star Raw, I am now a freelancer. Please have a look at my Portfolio


  • Louis – la – critque says:

    Sympas, mais trop long a lire ton article pour un blog. Je m’arreterais apres le paragraphe ‘The Aluminium capsules’.

    Louis la critque is back (tu croyais vraiment t’etre debarrasse de moi..)

    • Yann says:

      Salut Louis, merci pour le commentaire. En fait, je voulais avoir un article assez fouillé. Qui aille bien au fond du sujet. A une prochaine!

  • Mimy says:

    Totalement étourdie! Pour être sincère, je ne connais pas trop votre procédé capsule à café… mais ca m’a l’air d’être tout sauf “green”. Je pense que je vais continuer de boire mon café bio-fair-trade de la bonne vieille façon… French Press, buddy… French Press! 😛

    • Yann says:

      Une french press pour ceux qui ne sauraient pas c’est ça.
      T’inquète, tu va en entendre parler de Nespresso, ils viennent d’ouvrir une boutique à Montréal. Just for you! Bon, ça va prendre un peu plus de temps avant que t’en aie une à Alert…

  • Julien says:

    Si jamais, Futerra a fait un “Greenwash Guide” très sympa! Ca peut valoir la peine que tu y jettes un coup d’oeil si le sujet d’intéresse!

  • Vincent says:

    A l’étranger : taux de retour donc de recyclage des capsules quasi nul pour le moment… en France, seul retour possible : les 18 boutiques Nespresso…
    Au sujet des conditions de travail des producteurs, d’après des sources quasi internes à Nestlé, il semblerait que beaucoup d’efforts sont faits depuis longtemps par la société mais très peu communiqués… je n’y croyais pas trop… à suivre…

  • Yann says:

    Hum, il me semble dur de trouver un chiffre sur le taux de recyclage mondial des capsules “domestiques”.

    Si jamais, Nespresso a relancé son site de vente de capsules, il est vraiment mieux maintenant.

  • Vincent says:

    Le point par Terra eco sur les capsules et les nouveaux concurrents (Ethical Coffee Company et Maison du Café) :,9589

  • Maya says:

    I think they aren’t serious about it. Rainforest Alliance (RA) is not an entirely reliable certification and Nespresso apparently just cooperates with them but does not carry their seal on the products, which means their criteria are probably even weaker than those of RA. If they were serious about it, they wouldn’t create a AAA- whatever stamp on their own, they would ask for organic certification to a proper organic certifier and fair trade certification from a propoer FT certifier. This is a small step in a good direction, but we all know that Nestlé is a major polluter and resources destroyer and anything they play out showing how green they are is porbably to throw sand in our eyes.
    Also, their whole basic attitude of selling machines which only work with their fancy capsules, which are an incredible waste of package, just shows their mentality. They started collecting and recycling the capsules due to public opinion pressure, but once again they know that the number of people who goes to the trouble of returning the capsules is very low and they don’t offer incentive to people, so once again, is just to greenwash our minds.
    Hey, but I’m drinking a Nespresso tight now. My mom insisted on having a machine, despite all my warnings that it wasn’t ecological. And for her, I do anything 🙂 And I had to try these famous coffees to see what’s the fuss about it. It’s just plain old coffee… Served in a very fancy way so your mind thinks it tastes better than others!

  • Yann says:

    Hello Maya, Thanks pour your comment.

  • greenwashing ou pas, ca fait toujours avancer un peu les choses même s’ils le font pour mieux vendre.