The headquarters of Stora Enso in Helsinki.Pulp and paper manufacturer Stora Enso has conceded that it cannot fully monitor the use of child labour in its waste paper and wheat straw supply networks in Pakistan. Stora Enso assures that it is taking the necessary steps to address the problem but reminds that no quick solutions exist.

“No one can deny that child labour is used at the end of the supply chain. It is,” confirms Lauri Peltola, a senior executive at Stora Enso.

“At the end of the supply chain, many steps away from our joint venture, there may be no children working on a given day and five children working the next day.”

Regardless, the Finnish newsprint and magazine paper manufacturer has no plans to pull out of Pakistan, with Peltola arguing that the fate of the children could be notably worse if they were unable to collect waste paper. “If we pulled out, five-year-old girls would become prostitutes the next day.”

Veckans Affärer, a Swedish business newspaper, reported on Wednesday that Bulleh Shah Packaging, a joint venture of Stora Enso and the Pakistani Packages Ltd, buys waste paper collected from dumps across Pakistan from its subcontractors.

At the dumps, the waste paper is collected primarily by children.

At a dump in Sahiwal, the province of Punjab, thirty children toil in the heat and stench for ten hours per day, the newspaper writes. There is no uncertainty of the destination of the collected waste paper, with the employer of the children producing a receipt indicating that the waste paper has been acquired by Bulleh Shah Packaging.

Sweden's TV4 aired a documentary about the issue on Sunday.

Stora Enso has operated in Pakistan since 2012, when it established the joint venture with its local partner, Packages Ltd. At present, Stora Enso holds 35 per cent of the shares in the venture, which operates manufacturing plants in the cities of Kasur and Karachi.

Prior to its investment in Pakistan, Stora Enso conducted an independent assessment of Pakistani supply chains expressly to identify and understand the risks of child labour being used within the supply chains of its industry in Pakistan. The report acknowledges that it is “an undisputed fact” that child labour is used to some extent already within the supply chains of its partner.

“The use of child labour is a sensitive issue, and disciplined and systematic efforts are required to address it,” Peltola says. “It is a major socio-cultural problem, and you can only eradicate it by removing the reasons for families to send their children to collect paper.”

Teija Sutinen – HS
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Aleksi Tuomola / Lehtikuva