Social and environmental compliance to hit key exports
By Sajid Chaudhry
ISLAMABAD: Five key components of Pakistan’s export basket including textiles, leather, sports, surgical goods and carpet would be hard hit by the “Social and Environmental” compliance that is a precondition of developed countries, a donors-assisted trade research study reveals.
The study has been recently handed over to Ministry of Commerce and a presentation to Commerce minister had also been made recently. The study discloses that that the environmental and social compliance issues are still primarily voluntary and they are basically “buyer driven” and thus may vary from the country to country. It is, therefore, very difficult to identify social and environmental compliance requirements of any specific country.
ISO 14000 series is required to meet these challenges. International Standards Organization (ISO) has published a number of environmental standards like social, labour, “Social Accountability SA 8000 Series”. Pakistan has yet to adopt them as official standards of Pakistan.
The ministries of commerce and Industry has been preparing environmental management plans in conformity to the ISO 14001 requirements as an Ordinance has already been issued in this regard. Under the ordinance the certified companies are exempted from frequent inspections and reporting requirements, said a senior government official.
The study has also pointed out, while examining the present status of compliance of issues in Pakistan that a significant portion of the environmental problems in Pakistan is caused by industrial pollution. “Only a small fraction of the total industrial wastewater, most of which contains hazardous and toxic materials, is treated,” the study said. According to the study, the situation has very serious implications for human health and the environment in Pakistan. Now this will also have severe impacts on the country’s exports.
The necessary laws, regulations, procedures, national standards, and infrastructure to ensure their implementation are, by and large, in place. However, there is no information available with government agencies responsible to deal with exports on social and environmental compliance, it pointed out.
The study has recommended immediate steps for compliance of social and environmental issues by strengthening, consolidation of the concerned institutions including Pakistan National Accreditation Council (PNAC), Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority (PSQCA) and improve and expand the network of accredited laboratories in the country.
The study has also recommended a comprehensive awareness campaign for social and environmental issues, as the level of awareness is generally low in Pakistan.
According to the study there is lukewarm response from the industry, especially Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) on the issues, but there is a need to launch a comprehensive, persuasive and targeted awareness campaign at national level. The government should work closely with the chambers to disseminate information among the stakeholders.
The study calls for immediate steps the government is required to take is to establishing data or Information bank regarding the compliance with social and environmental compliance of the industry.
“It is particularly important to collect this information for the five industries, which are feared to be affected by the compliance regulations. The government needs to encourage use of tools such as the Self Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) system for emissions.
Other required important actions are the establishment of common effluent treatment plants in the industrial cities, promotion of industrial clusters where modern and compliant infrastructure can be provided, providing fiscal incentives for compliance.