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The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) on Thursday held a roundtable meeting in the city to discuss business opportunities stemming from demands for economic growth suited to the climate and nature.

The event was co-hosted by the Port Qasim Authority (PQA) and attended by senior representatives of the private sector, the IUCN, the Authority and regional business and experts on biodiversity programmes.

The purpose of the meeting was to 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 businesses and seeks out new opportunities while operating responsibly. "There is growing recognition in businesses today that they are heavily dependent on the planet's natural resources for their countless production processes," explained Aban Marker Kabraji, regional director of IUCN Asia.

The consequences of such dependence are apparent, she continued-a declining water supply, deforestation, and climate change, which are some of the most pressing challenges to preserving our natural environment today.

Kabraji emphasized 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, the director general (technical) of the Port Qasim Authority, 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 address if welcome, Mahmood Akhtar Cheema, country representative of IUCN Pakistan, touched upon the environmental challenges Pakistan faces and shared IUCN's work over the last 30 years. He praised 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," Cheema said.

In his keynote address, IUCN's international expert in business and biodiversity, Muhammad Rafiq, 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, enumerating the business opportunities in the energy, forestry, tourism, financial, construction and coastal sectors in Pakistan.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2017

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