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WWF-Pakistan and ILO host Provincial Inception Workshop for the implementation of International Labour and Environmental Standards in Pakistan's SMEs

Posted on 25 April 2017

Lahore, WWF-Pakistan, in collaboration with International Labour Organization (ILO), hosted an inception workshop and stakeholder mobilisation on ‘International Labour and Environmental Standards (ILES) Application in Pakistan’s Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs)’. The ceremony, held at a local hotel, was attended by representatives from the Environment Protection Department, Punjab, Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Pakistan Textile Exporters Association (PTEA), Sialkot Tannery Zone, Pakistan Readymade Garment Manufacturing Exporters Association (PRGMEA), research institutes and academia.

The initiative funded by the European Union (EU) aims to raise SMEs’ awareness on improving resource efficiency and productivity, competitiveness and business opportunities. Given that the vast majority of private enterprises are small and medium sized (with 250 or fewer employees), and that they are responsible for well over half of employment and business turnover, the ILES project focuses on the overall improvement in the sustainability of production and consumption practices, with a particular focus on water use and management in water intensive SMEs of the country.

The project will further assist public sector institutions to improve enforcement of existing international labour and environmental standards and legislation in Pakistan, and strengthen the capacity of the public sector in implementing Multi-Environmental Agreements (MEAs). Similarly it will support SMEs in the textile and leather sectors to place good environmental practices, e.g. waste reduction, energy and water conservation, through Environmental Management Systems (EMSs).

Speaking on the occasion, Begum Zakia Shahnawaz Khan, Provincial Minister of Population Welfare and Environment, appreciated the initiative taken by WWF-Pakistan and ILO to bring labour and environmental standards in Pakistan at par with international standards. “Economic growth that is based on serious resource exploitation and intensive pollution is environmentally unsustainable. Therefore, I have high hopes that the ILES project will contribute towards promoting sustainable economic growth in Pakistan.”

Hammad Naqi Khan, Director General WWF-Pakistan, laid emphasis on the importance of environmental sustainability being recognised by mainstream business practices in many sectors. “In today’s world, we cannot pursue economic integration into the global and regional economy without taking into account issues of sustainable environmental management and impacts of climate change. Mediocrity is unacceptable, and SMEs in Pakistan should understand that ultimately the goal of environmental sustainability is envisaged as a long-term perspective that aims to ensure that economic activity can progress without damaging the environment.”

Ingrid Christensen, Country Director ILO, expressed her pleasure on partnering with WWF-Pakistan for a joint initiative to promote labour and environmental standards in Pakistan. “We believe that labour and environmental issues are crucial elements for achieving inclusive economic growth and sustainable enterprises.  The Government of Pakistan; employer and worker organisations; civil society; industries and the private sector have to join hands and develop a new model of joint interventions to comprehensively promote decent; productive and environment-friendly workplaces in Pakistan.  ILO is grateful for the support extended by the European Union (EU) for this initiative.”

The programme will introduce a range of key sustainable consumption and production (SCP) interventions including: cleaner production - improved resource efficiency, specifically for water and energy consumption in target SMEs, introduction of Decent Work and Occupational Safety and Health (OH&S) practices, and mainstreaming better water and energy management in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategies; greening the supply chain - developing sustainable product sourcing and tracking system, encouraging green sourcing among target SMEs; and enabling the uptake of SCP practices by taking initiatives to improve access to finance, enhancing stakeholder engagement, building capacities, and increasing awareness for addressing financial infrastructure gaps. Secondly, the programme will target federal and provincial institutions to build and strengthen their capacity to enforce and monitor obligations and standards under relevant Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) and national environmental standards regarding water, energy and chemicals use. An enabling environment will be created for legislators, policymakers, lawmakers and enforcers, concerned government officials and other key stakeholders to learn about the principal labour and environmental challenges and develop an enhanced capacity to ensure adherence to environmental standards.

According to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), SMEs represent more than 90 per cent of global businesses and account, on average, for about 50 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of all countries and for 60 per cent of their employment As a sector, SMEs could contribute up to 70 per cent of all industrial pollution. This has resulted in an increasing recognition of SMEs’ social and environmental impact. There is a growing trend in the sustainability movement that increasingly focuses on SMEs, and not just on multinational enterprises (MNEs), as part of the process of creating a more sustainable world.


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