Back in September, I had the pleasure of speaking with Soorty Enterprises, Pakistan’s leading denim manufacturer, about its extensive sustainability-driven practices and CSR initiatives.
Based in the coastal city of Karachi, Pakistan’s most populous city and the capital of Sindh province, the people at Soorty are no strangers to the impacts of climate change and social challenges. Asad Soorty, Director of Operations, laments the disproportionate impacts that Pakistan, a relatively low contributor to global emissions, suffers as temperatures rise and resources become more scarce.
“This coastal city, once with pleasant temperatures and a nice sea breeze, is almost perpetually parched,” he says. “About 60% of the country’s population is food insecure, and almost 45% of kids are experiencing stunted growth. All of this is now; and we haven’t yet moved into the era where Pakistan will be the eighth most climate change-affected country.” This intimate exposure to the realities of emissions, waste and their effects has spurred action at Soorty Enterprises, with operations increasingly geared towards manufacturing denim in the most sustainable, environmental and socially beneficial manner.
“This is a prime example of a country that needs to utilise its arable land more effectively: rather than growing cotton, we should be growing food crops. We want to be a part of this change, and we are working hard to disrupt the industry. But we don’t see it as a Pakistan-centric issue. Climate change isn’t a problem bound by borders; unfortunately, its solutions are.”
By adopting a Cradle to Cradle (C2C) approach, adhering to the internationally-recognised standards laid by William McDonough and Dr Michael Braungart, Soorty strives for its products to meet C2C certification across five key areas: material health, material reuse, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship, and social fairness. From a technological standpoint, this has meant delivering state-of-the-art manufacturing processes, including the use of ozone for bleaching and other water saving technologies as part of its Zero Waste Water dyeing process.
Sarfraz Cheema, Head of Sustainability for the garment division, elaborates: “We have adopted the Tonello UP denim washing technology, enabling us to process the garments with a liquor ratio of 1:2 and thereby process 1kg of fabric using just two litres of water. In the conventional process, the ratio is as high as 1:8, so we have reduced water usage in this process by 75%.”
Outside its core business functions, Soorty’s CSR department is highly active. In the profile, Mobeen Chughtai, Manager of Corporate Communications and CSR for Social Sustainability and Community Relations, discusses the company’s approach and some of the initiatives it is currently involved in. “We don’t view our CSR as separate from the business, because it isn’t,” he explains.
“If we don’t exist to have a positive effect on society, there will be no society for us to exist in.” Along with urban forestry and plans to bring enhanced agriculture to the Thar desert, Soorty is committed to women’s empowerment in a culturally conservative environment. “Female empowerment is of special significance in the developing world, where women find it much harder to secure their God-given rights or access to basic services, such as healthcare, education and justice. In August of this year, we launched a unique project in Pakistan: the Soorty Enhancing Women Service (SEWS) project.
"It will enable and encourage the employability and empowerment of women from low-income backgrounds – the first such UN SDG-compliant, multi-partner venture launched by a for-profit entity in Pakistan, to help underprivileged families.”
For the full feature and more details on the exciting work that Soorty Enterprises is doing to drive environmental and social sustainability, take a look at the September issue of CSO Magazine or the company’s exclusive brochure.