LAHORE - The WWF-Pakistan, in collaboration with the International Labour Organization (ILO), hosted a workshop and mobilisation on ‘International Labour and Environmental Standards (ILES) Application in Pakistan’s Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs)’ at a local hotel Tuesday.

Representatives from the Punjab Environment Protection Department, Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Pakistan Textile Exporters Association (PTEA), Sialkot Tannery Zone, Pakistan Readymade Garment Manufacturing Exporters Association (PRGMEA), researchers and academicians attended the event.

The European Union-funded initiative is aimed at raising SMEs’ awareness on improving resource efficiency and productivity, competitiveness and business opportunities.

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, Population Welfare and Environment Minister Zakia Shahnawaz Khan appreciated the initiative and said: “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.”

WWF-Pakistan Director General Hammad Naqi Khan highlighted 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.”

ILO Country Director Ingrid Christensen expressed 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; 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.”