A year has passed since Pakistan was faced with its worst floods in living memory; a recently published report highlighted the devastating long-term economic consequences of the natural disaster as well as the emotional consequences on people, particularly children. As a way to turn the tide, the Minister for Planning, Development, and Special Initiatives Professor Ahsan Iquabal recently launched the National Growth Center aimed at putting the country on a steady path of innovation and prosperity, and economic development.
The countrys ability to stand on its own two feet is incredibly important, even if the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a $3 billion bailout in July, citing the significant shocks that have rocked Pakistans economy, such as the floods which caused more than $30 billion in damage, and other fiscal and external pressures. The bailout programme will offer an immediate lifeline by immediately dispersing $1.2 billion to help stabilize the economy. The IMF categorizes the risks facing the country as exceptionally high and to mitigate the risks, the lender has imposed exacting conditions in exchange for the bailout, including a market-determined exchange rate for the Pakistani rupee, increased energy tariffs, and other reforms in the energy sector.
What is clear is that keeping Pakistans sustainable growth agenda on track amid these headwinds will require a collaborative effort between the international public and private sectors to complement local efforts like the freshly-launched National Growth Center.
Manifesting progress through Sustainable Development Goals
Despite a challenging economic context, Pakistan has made promising progress in regard to sustainable growth, particularly concerning the Sustainable Development Goals. In a UN forum, Zahid Durrani said Pakistan has made considerable progress. He went on to remind people that Pakistan was the first country to adopt the SDGs as its own national development agenda through a passed resolution back in 2016 and that since then a Parliamentary Task Force has been established to strategize, legislate, and oversee the implementation process.
The country is going even further; last month it launched its first-ever Sustainable Development Goals Investor Map 2023. The map identifies investable solutions for the countrys most vital needs. The portfolio of climate-resilient investments in a value of $2.84 billion, and the almost $3 billion budget includes engagements regarding climate change, low-cost housing construction, and micro-finance.
Lightening the load through collaboration with firms like SICPA, NestlÃ© and Adidas
The ambitious goals of the SDGs, however, can only be achieved by partnering with the private sector. Corporate ESGs are vital in helping to contribute to the SDGs of the country; the Pakistani government plays a critical role in fostering an environment conducive to investment as public funding alone will not be sufficient.Â
In the case of Pakistan, the move to integrate long-term sustainability in business decisions and corporate structures as well as actively making them economically viable, socially responsible, and environmentally sound is not just strategic but necessary. In 2021, a record $649 billion was funneled into ESG-focused funds worldwide, which is a significant amount of capital being channeled toward achieving ESG goals. ESG considerations are especially relevant in a country like Pakistan, which is ranked among the top 10 countries most vulnerable to extreme weather events and losses relating to climate disasters, a prime example being last yearâs flooding.
As Pakistan looks to not go at it alone, multiple companies are stepping up in collaboration with the government and the ESGs established. One of those companies is SICPA, a market leader in ink-based security features for banknotes, identity, and value documents, and is a long-trusted partner to governments, central banks, and high-security printers around the world. A strong advocate of the transformative power of education and social responsibility, SICPA Pakistan launched in 2018 the Education Assistance Programme (EAP) to support the education of the children of the employees, placing special emphasis on the education of girls by recognizing the pivotal role they play in shaping society. The companys meaningful contributions have been recognized, most recently when SICPA Pakistan received the 15th National Forum for Environmental Health (NFEH) Award 2023 for Best Practices in CSR.Â Â Â Â Â
Another Swiss powerhouse that has shown its commitment to Pakistan is NestlÃ©. At the beginning of this year, the company was recognized for its commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by Global Compact Network Pakistan. CEO of NestlÃ© Pakistan, Jason AvanceÃ±a said, Winning this award is a testament to NestlÃ© Pakistans commitment to UN SDGs. He went on to say how committed the company is to being a force for good to the communities for mutual growth and sustainability.Â
Adidas has also been consistently contributing to Pakistanâs socio economic development, and like SICPA has paid special attention to the role of women. Their Womens Empower Programme has been recognized for its strong ESG performance. The programme aims to strengthen women workers by providing them with appropriate knowledge and skills. The goal is to equip selected batches of home-based female workers with marketable skills that reflect the demand.Â
It is clear that through private and public sector collaboration progress is being made and the companies helping to spearhead said progress are being recognized for their contribution. They also show that it is vital for the private sector to be involved, should Pakistan wish to continue to make major progress towards its SDG targets.Â
Looking beyond Pakistan
With Pakistan looking for concrete long-term solutions to the economic woes it is currently facing, as well as responding to the exacting conditions of the IMF, Pakistan will need to adopt a tripartite approachlooking well beyond the countrys boundaries to find partners with whom it can build relationships. Recent efforts to build mutually beneficial relationships with Saudi Arabia and UAE are excellent examples of Pakistan looking to move away from a reliance on IMF bailouts. Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari went on to say, Saudi Arabia and UAE are our brothers in good times and in bad times, I want us to strategically develop a mutually beneficial relationship so that we do not need to go to them for help again and again.Â
Ultimately, Pakistan has illustrated great interest and involvement not only in the SDGs choosing to contribute to a sustainable world, but it has also understood the importance of its own economic sustainability and how its key rests in a tripartite system composed of itself, key international business partners like SICPA, NestlÃ©, and Adidas, as well as regional neighbors. The road ahead will not be an easy one, but the country is on the path of offering itself the best possible conditions to move forward.Â
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