International Labor and Environmental Standards (ILES) application in Pakistan's SMEs

Donor: European Union
Lead: International Labor Organization (ILO)
Duration: 6 years (2016-2022)
Target Sectors: Textile and Leather


Pakistan is facing varying economic, political and social challenges with the overall GDP growth rate reduced to around 2% in 2007 to 2008 and only slowly increasing up to 4.14% in 2014 to 2015. The economic growth remains significantly hampered by the energy crisis (still far from resolution) and the fragile law and order situation, contributing to a barely conducive business environment.

Population growth coupled with unbalanced industrial expansion has placed enormous pressure on the country's resource base and has also resulted in unabated pollution (air, water, land, noise).

Pakistan is a water stressed country with average per capita water availability at 964 m3 per annum. Unsustainable water use and poor water management and governance practices are deteriorating water quantity and quality, thus creating serious social and economic repercussions.

Rapid industrialization and urbanization (37% of population living in cities) have added to air, water, and land pollution, compounded by inadequate or improper waste management. These issues, coupled with the high incidence of poverty, are serious threats to sustainable development.

Textile and leather sectors are key drivers of Pakistan’s economy and are two of the most water and energy intensive, polluting, and energy consuming sectors in Pakistan. Low process efficiency, wastage of resources, water pollution due to discharge of untreated effluents, air emissions, notably volatile organic compounds (VOCs), excessive noise or odour, as well as workspace safety, are some of the main environmental issues associated with these sectors.


Keeping in perspective the current social and environmental scenario of Pakistan, WWF-Pakistan has joined hands with the European Union and International Labor Organization (ILO) to implement international labor and environmental standards in Pakistan in order to improve the competitiveness of the industrial sector of Pakistan and to strengthen the capacity of the public sector to implement multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) and national environmental laws and standards in Pakistan. Compliance with international and national standards promotes enterprise efficiency, supports competitiveness in international trade and protects workers and consumers’ health and safety. This in turn leads to more sustainable socio-economic development of the country.

The project aims at contributing to improve environmental sustainability and livelihoods in Pakistan by supporting sustainable economic growth and development. Considering the alarming levels of pollution being discharged from industries, the project will focus upon an overall improvement in the sustainability of production and consumption practices, with a particular focus on water use and management in water intensive, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

The project aims at enhancing capacities of the textile and leather sector SMEs to adopt SEMPs (Smart Environmental Management Practices) to reduce water and energy use as well as hazardous chemicals (by 15-20%), in addition to addressing other relevant environmental issues such as air and noise pollution, and solid waste management.

Specific Objective I

To assist public sector institutions (Federal and within the four provinces) to enhance the enforcement of existing legislation and compliance with ILES in Pakistan as well as define new laws where necessary.

Specific Objective II

To assist the textile and leather sectors’ Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to institutionalize the implementation of, and compliance with, ILES legislation through their active engagement.

Expected Outputs

  • Implementation of smart environmental management practices (SEMPs) in 75 SMEs (25 progressive, 50 non-progressive) belonging to textile and leather sectors.
  • Enhanced compliance to national environmental quality standards (NEQs) and multi environmental agreements (MEAs).
  • Development of business case in environmental conservation
  • Knowledge dissemination and raising awareness amongst 500 SMEs
  • Implementation of Green Office Initiatives in selected SMEs.
  • Implementation of Alliance for Water Stewardship standards (covering resource efficiency, sustainability and pollution mitigation) implementation in selected industries
  • Establishment and operation of city-wide partnerships on sustainable water management
  • Development of green financial instruments for sustainable initiatives in the target industrial sectors.

Contribution to International Commitments

The project will contribute to national commitments to the Sustainable Development Goals 1, 5, 6, 8, 12, 13, 16. It shall also contribute towards the Consumer Information Programme (CIP) and Sustainable Livelihood and Education (SLE) programmes of the 10 Year Framework of Programmes (10YFP).

Geographical Focus

Target Groups

  • Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development
  • Provincial Labour Departments
  • Ministry of Climate Change
  • Environment Protection Agencies (EPAs) / Environment Protection Departments,
  • Textile and Leather SMEs
  • Industrial Associations
  • Chambers of Commerce