On April 20th, 2017, IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, hosted a roundtable meeting in Karachi inviting the corporate brass to discuss business opportunities stemming from the demands for economic growth that is climate and nature friendly.
The event, co-hosted by the Port Qasim Authority (PQA), was attended by senior representatives of the private sector, IUCN, the PQA and regional business and biodiversity programme experts.
The purpose of the meeting was to reflect, together with select business leaders, on the expectations and opportunities facing them in the emerging policy environment – especially in the context of the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change - and to explore a mechanism that is led by business with a view to best harnessing new opportunities while operating responsibly in support of both local and global policy.
“There is a growing recognition amongst businesses today that they are heavily dependent on the planet’s natural resources for their countless production processes,” explained Ms. Aban Marker Kabraji, Regional Director IUCN Asia. The consequences, she continued, of such dependence are apparent – a declining water supply, deforestation, and climate change, which are some of the most pressing challenges to preserving our natural environment today.
Ms. Kabraji emphasised that sustainable development “is about making better choices as producers and consumers, and that if businesses are able to successfully take ownership of more conservation initiatives, they can not only become real agents of change, but can also secure their long-term viability.” She urged businesses to consider establishing a platform which could bring together key private sector players to define their dependencies and impacts on the natural environment and explore a way forward, both independently and in collaboration with each other, highlighting successes achieved in countries like India, Vietnam and Sri Lanka.
Speaking on the occasion, PQA Director General (Technical) Mr. Shabbir Anwar Kazi, said, “The establishment of a business and biodiversity platform would also be consistent with the recommendations of a recently conducted study of the PQA area that highlighted critical environmental issues.” There are several environmental issues, he explained, associated with the industrial developments which are necessary to be taken care of in order to avoid long term impacts on the coastal ecosystems and people.
In his welcome address, Mr. Mahmood Akhtar Cheema, Country Representative, IUCN Pakistan, touched upon the environmental challenges Pakistan faces and shared IUCN’s work over the last 30 years. He appreciated the efforts being made by several businesses in Pakistan which are taking a strategic view of the environment they are operating in. “The corporate sector has already invested a significant amount in CSR activities –so there is a realization that exists, and our role is to facilitate and bring them on to a platform for potential collaborations towards environmental sustainability,” Mr. Cheema observed.
IUCN’s international expert in Business and Biodiversity, Mr. Muhammad Rafiq in his keynote address gave an overview of global trends and changes in the business environment, especially in the context of the SDGs. He elaborated on sustainable consumption and production patterns, while enumerating the business opportunities in the energy, forestry, tourism, financial, construction and coastal sectors in Pakistan.
Finally, building on one of the examples in Ms. Kabraji’s opening remarks, Ms. Shiranee Yasaratne, Advisor on Business and Biodiversity IUCN Sri Lanka, presented the regional perspective with a case study highlighting IUCN Sri Lanka’s success in establishing a business and biodiversity platform in the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce. “The focus of the platform is on facilitating information flow among companies, encouraging them to share best practices and demonstrate that sustainability and profitability need not be mutually-exclusive. Another aspect is to ensure that relevant case studies and effective tools and mechanisms are readily available to companies,” she noted.
The roundtable was organized with financial support from the Mangroves for the Future (MFF) programme, which is premised, in part, on business support to conserve mangroves and other coastal ecosystems as critical assets of their respective coastal economies.
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