Moving the Needle for Gender Equality: UN Women in Pakistan

Asia and the Pacific | Pakistan

UN Women, in collaboration with the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), hosted an environmental, social and governance (ESG) symposium in Karachi on 23 January 2023. The symposium was organized as the first high-level forum to discuss SEPC’s recently published ESG roadmap that deliberates on the evolving landscape of ESG and sustainability-related initiatives, and adopts an inclusive approach for all major stakeholders as a way forward.

The private sector plays a vital role in driving economic growth and development. It also has a significant impact on the environment and society. ESG reporting can play a significant role in helping to achieve the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). The SDGs and NDCs aim to address some of the most pressing global challenges such as poverty, inequality and climate change.

ESG reporting can help companies to identify and mitigate risks associated with these challenges, and to improve their environmental and social performance in ways that align with the SDGs and NDCs. For example, ESG reporting can help companies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption, which can contribute to achieving NDCs related to climate change. Additionally, ESG reporting can help companies to identify and address social issues such as gender equality, labour rights and human rights, which can align with SDGs related to decent work and economic growth, and to reduced inequalities.

Numerous stakeholders attended the symposium; including corporate sector senior leadership, regulators, multilateral agencies and academia, and culminated in voluntary commitments from all towards advancing the ESG agenda in the country, under a mutual agenda to promote socially responsible business and sustainable investment.

“ESG considerations are gaining traction, as the investors and companies are seeking long-term value and alignment with sustainability and climate-related objectives”, said Musarat Jabeen, Executive Director of SECP, in her opening remarks.

Sharmeela Rasool, Country Representative of UN Women Pakistan, emphasized the significance of the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) leading to inclusive economic growth and need for benchmarking best practices.

The WEPs provides a holistic set of indicators that are most likely to advance gender equality across corporate value chains aligned with existing corporate gender equality frameworks. By using this framework as a tool for transparent reporting, companies can more effectively work towards a gender equal economy that works for all women and men.

The first panel discussion comprised of Farrukh Khan, CEO of the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX), Ehsan Malik, CEO of Pakistan Business Council (PBC), Farrukh Rehman, Director of the Institute of Chartered Accountants Pakistan (ICAP) and Fareeha Ummar, Head of Women’s Economic Empowerment (UN Women Pakistan).

The plenary session discussed the critical role of institutions in promoting sustainable business practices, transition challenges and the need for tangible targets for gender equality and women’s economic empowerment, including the WEPs.

The working session – led by Muhammad Shoaib, Director of the CFA Society Pakistan with engagement of representatives from the private sector – mapped their best practices and showed commitment to strengthen their ESG considerations.

In his concluding remarks, Akif Saeed, Chair of the SECP, appreciated the keen interest and participation of diverse stakeholders during the session. He emphasized the need for consolidated, inclusive and concentrated efforts towards a sustainable ecosystem. The ESG regulatory roadmap is the first step in establishing momentum to achieve the key aspirations and tangible milestones through an inclusive approach to embrace ESG best practices for sustainable capital markets.