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Environmental sustainability under EU’s GSP+ — II

Pakistan has ratified all conventions related to climate change and ozone depleting substances (ODSs). The global GHG emissions data indicates that Pakistan contributes to around 1% to these emissions (UNEP 2021). Energy and agriculture are the main sectors responsible for most of the emissions as 46% emissions come from the energy sector and 41% from agriculture, as indicated by figure 1 (USAID 2016). The entire industry sector contributes 5% to the country GHG emissions. Although, Pakistan’s contribution to the global emissions is comparatively low, its GHG emissions are increasing at an alarming rate and so is its vulnerability to the climate change. To overcome these, the country has shown significant progress via substantial initiatives.

For instance, the Government of Pakistan (GoP) developed National Climate Change Policy (NCCP) as a major guideline to ensure climate change mitigation and adaptation in the country. NCCP was revised and updated in 2021 to ensure sustained economic growth by integrating climate change at policy level and fulfilling SDG implementation in every sector (Ministry of Climate Change 2021). Pakistan’s continuous efforts in overcoming GHG emissions also include updation of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) in 2021. Despite Pakistan’s financial needs remaining high, the updated NDCs aim to decarbonize its economy and enhance its climate resilience by cutting 50% emissions, shifting to 60% renewable energy and targeting 30% electric vehicles by 2030.

Other legislative and policy actions to achieve greener Pakistan in future include Billion Tree Tsunami Program, Protected Areas Initiatives, Recharge Pakistan Project to reduce flood risks and enhance water recharge and National Action Plan on Sustainable Consumption and Production in collaboration with the EU.

Compliance to the conventions on good governance

Pakistan has improved on part of the UN Convention on Corruption. Javaid (2022) states that “According to Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Pakistan has substantially completed its two action plans, covering 34 items and warrants an on-site visit to verify the reforms implementation.” Recently, this visit by the FATF’s technical team took place and the global money laundering and financing watchdog removed Pakistan from FATF’s grey list.

Remaining challenges

Under the status of GSP+, Pakistan has shown a strong commitment towards ensuring social and environmental sustainability in the country. However, the progress needs to be enhanced and amplified to all the sectors.

According to US Department of State, the progress regarding human rights states that the right to free speech and press is subjected to restrictions. Blasphemy law restricts rights to free speech concerning matters of religion. Also, journalists and media platforms reporting on sensitive topics are subjected to harassment and violence. Also, national legislations regarding protection of refugees including access to basic services and employment opportunities are not endorsed. Further, corruption is persistently observed in the politics and government.

Regarding women’s rights, spousal rape is not explicitly criminalized, rape survivors face procedural barriers to have access to courts and there is no centralized law enforcement data collection system in the country. Moreover, women become victims of honour killing and forced marriages and face legal and economic discrimination. Forced religious conversions, unlawful kidnapping and detentions, targeted killings and religious discrimination are other remaining concerns associated to human rights. Pakistan also needs to advance its efforts in ensuring rights and safety of children. The major focus needs to be diverted towards monitoring and effectively implementing regulations regarding child abuse and sexual exploitation, forced early marriages and displaced children.

Furthermore, rights of persons with disabilities require strong recognition in all sectors of Pakistan. The initiatives must focus on measures including education of children with disabilities, increasing employment quotas and improving access to public transport and health-care facilities. Lastly, marginalization of transgender women, violence against other sexually oriented persons, unlawful attacks on the families and residences of transgender community, mob killing and discrimination in employment, housing, education and other services require an effective consideration.

The current progress regarding compliance to the labor rights conventions indicates that the provincial laws regarding collective bargaining excluded banking and financial sector, forestry and hospital workers and self-employed farmers. Relevant regulations are not enforced effectively to penalize those denying labor rights. Illegal strikes are strictly monitored and large scale strikes are often interrupted by the police. Moreover, forced and child labor still exists in Pakistan. The sectors are presented in figure 1 (Bureau of International Labor Affairs 2022). Children still work on hazardous sites, domestic workers are hired informally with no limits to working hours and inspection of child labor and minimum age requirements is a failure in the country.

Occupational health and safety is another crucial area that requires maximum attention of the authorities. Workers are usually not trained regarding health and safety measures. Also, dangerous working sites such as mines lacking ventilation still exist and contract workers or the invisible workforce not in records usually fall victim of accidents.

Initiatives regarding environmental safety and climate change have shown promising results. However, the relevant sectors are still facing prevalent challenges. For instance, due to inefficient monitoring, capacity building and financial instability, manufacturing industries including SMEs still use hazardous chemicals such as POPs and import unverified contaminants. This not only causes aquatic and land ecotoxicity but also creates hazardous working conditions for the workers. Moreover, the GHG emissions are increasing at an alarming rate and so is the country’s vulnerability to the climate change. Overall, there is a lot of scope for Pakistan to enhance its climate change adaptation and mitigation via proper utilization of funds, hunting international climate change grants as well as by ensuring an interdisciplinary approach to this change.

Sustainability progress of Pakistan’s textile industry

Social sustainability and compliance

Pakistan’s textile industry can play a vital role in fulfilling human rights conventions in the country. As Pakistan’s major share of exports relies on textiles, the industry has a vital responsibility to act for the renewal of GSP+.

The industry, fortunately, is giving utmost attention to social compliance in all sectors.

Sarena Textiles has also added employee welfare in its major goals. Other initiatives by the textile industry to ensure human rights include Pheonix Project by Artistic Milliners that aims to fight gender-based violence by employing victims of acid attack, Enriching Lives Programme by Gul Ahmed to provide training and employment to differently-abled people and Sapphire’s Deaf Reach Programme providing trainings and employment to the deaf.

The focus, however, needs to be enhanced by ensuring protection of all workers including those from the minority groups, transgender communities and disabled from unlawful conflicts. Moreover, effective monitoring against official corruption must be ensure to improve transparency in the sector. Effective regulations to ensure women’s safety need to be enforced. Moreover, the textile industry must treat every worker with different cultural, religious, ethnic and tribal background equally in terms of freedom of expression as well as social and financial security.

Further, Bureau of International Labor Affairs has marked Pakistan’s textiles as goods produced using child labor. Thus, the protection of rights of children needs to be a highest priority area for the industry. Child abuse must be monitored and regulated and child labor must be reduced to the minimum.

Compliance to the UN labour rights conventions is the matter most associated to Pakistan’s textile industry as it employs 40% of the total labour force. In order to make relations between business and human rights favorable, labor rights must be fulfilled.

Pakistan’s textile industry has added fulfilment of labor rights in its main agenda. This is successfully followed by an increase in trainings related to labor rights, provision of fair remuneration and allocation of fair working hours as well as elimination of child labor.

It clearly highlights the assurance of labor rights and prohibition of forced and child labor in the industry (US Apparel and Textiles 2021). Moreover, Interloop is another major textile company that, as a result of its initiatives to ensure human and labor rights, achieved the following people impacts in 2021:

* 25,000+ people provided with decent work and employment opportunities

* 4,000 children provided with quality education at 29 TCF schools

* 8,000+ empowered through lean tool and trainings

* 500 young women and men equipped with higher education

* 2028 women working at Interloop

* 25,000 patients provided with free healthcare facilities

* 6,000 local talent promoted through sports events

The efforts, however, need to be enhanced. To achieve this, the industry needs to ensure freedom of association and encourage collective bargaining by providing workers relevant labor rights related trainings and education. Moreover, strong inspection of labor rights implementation needs to be ensured by the social compliance departments. This includes monitoring of forced and compulsory labor, extra working hours without wages, hazardous working conditions, freedom of speech, gender discrimination as well as child labor. Also, special departments must be associated to inspect the child labor element.

Environmental sustainability and compliance

Pakistan’s textile industry has incorporated the long-ignored principles of environmental consciousness in its agenda. One of the examples is presented in figures 2 and 3, which indicate the major environment and climate change related principles and sustainability mapping set to be addressed by the US Apparel and Textiles. Interloop is another great example which has, as a result of its green initiatives, shown the following environmental impacts in 2021:

* 7,390,289 KWH energy saved which is equivalent to energy used by homes for one year 631

* 21,295 Tons of GHG emissions avoided which are equivalent to tree seedlings grown for 10 years 352,117

* 81,864 M3 water saved which is equivalent to daily water consumption (based on six-member family) 68,220 families

Sarena Textiles encompasses a range of environmental matters of global importance including responsible sourcing, water stewardship, energy conservation, carbon footprint reduction and certifications and transparency. Crescent Bahuman Textiles has achieved crucial certifications including OCS, GRS, Higg index, ZDHC, ISO 14001, Cradle to Cradle, Oeko-Tex, GOTS, and WRAP. Its major environmental initiatives include enhancing carbon sink, shift to renewable energy sources and rainwater harvesting. The Crescent Textile Mills Limited (Crestex) has prepared its sustainability roadmap to present its vision 2050. It has aligned its development and all activities to achieve this roadmap. This roadmap indicates that Crestex has envisioned to reduce its carbon footprint and achieve net zero by 100%, reduce unsustainable water consumption, shift its development to the renewable energy sources as well as reduce landfill waste and comply with the ZDHC requirements (figure 4).

Other initiatives taken by Pakistan’s textile industry to achieve environmental sustainability by reducing carbon footprint and increasing water conservation include revolutionary zero waste dying technology by AGI Denim, initiation on rainwater reservoirs of 6 million gallons by KMLG, GHG reduction via Heat Exchanger Rehabilitation Project by Al Rahim Textile Industries and sustainable textile bleaching by Interloop.

However, the industry is still facing major environmental issues. For instance, land and marine ecotoxicities are major environmental concerns associated to Pakistan’s textile industry (UNCTAD 2021). Thus, the industry needs to significantly enhance its efforts to make its manufacturing less pollution oriented. This can be done by banning import and use of hazardous chemicals, updation of effluent treatment plants (ETPs) and improving safety standards to use and store hazardous chemicals. The industry needs to regularly update its members regarding lists of chemicals of concern and most hazardous chemicals which are frequently updated by the international bodies and top export destinations such as the EU, UK and US.

Furthermore, the textile industry contributes around 9.5% to the country level industrial GHG emissions and 0.095% to the global GHG emissions. The emissions from the industry, however, are showing an increasing pattern (USAID 2016). Therefore, industrial emissions need to be monitored and efficient technology needs to be installed to filter hazardous air pollutants. Also, textile industry needs to shift its focus towards renewable energy sources to combat climate change.


The EU is one of the major export destinations of Pakistan and EU’s GSP+ status allows tariff-free access to Pakistan’s exports to the EU. Pakistan is the largest beneficiary of GSP+. This status has not only supported Pakistan grow its exports, the country also has enhanced its capabilities to grow in a sustainable manner and diversify its economy and create employment opportunities. It also accelerated Pakistan’s efforts in improving compliance to major human and labor rights as well as international conventions on environment and good governance.

GSP+ ends in December 2023 and its extension is crucial for the country to boost its export-based GDP but also, to shape its development sustainably. The country, in this regard, must fulfill the requirements by all the mandatory international conventions on human rights, labor rights, environment and climate change and good governance. The current efforts are crucial and require global appreciation; however, they need to be enhanced in all the sectors. Pakistan’s textile industry also needs to enhance its current efforts, especially regarding labor rights and environment and climate change.

The current practices and efforts indicate that Pakistan has not utilized the GSP+ status to the maximum and therefore, it must reshape its development in all the sectors and align it with the international requirements to achieve sustainable development. This will not only help Pakistan enhance its trade capacity; the country will also increase its job market, stay in line with its export competitors such as Bangladesh and implement SDGs in every sector by socially and environmentally complying to them.

Shahid Sattar and Noreen Akhtar, "Environmental sustainability under EU’s GSP+ — II," Business recorder. 2022-11-17.
Keywords: Economics , Ttextile industry , International conventions , Environment , Textiles , Al Rahim , Pakistan , Bangladesh , GSP+ , EU , GHG , UNCTAD

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