An SDG Pioneer for gender equality and decent work
Murtaza Ahmed is elevating Pakistan’s garment industry onto the leading edge of corporate sustainability.
Since joining Artistic Milliners as managing director in 2012, Murtaza has set up Pakistan’s first U.S. Green Building Council LEED-certified garment factory and filled 50 per cent of the company’s top management with women.
This year, Murtaza worked to create a factory carrying the Platinum certification issued by the Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, known around the world as LEED. These certification credentials dovetail with seven Sustainable Development Goals: Goal 3 (Good Health and Well-Being); Goal 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation); Goal 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy); Goal 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure); Goal 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production); Goal 13 (Climate Action); and Goal 17 (Partnership for the Goals).
The company ‘s certification as a Fair Trade USA factory also accelerates Pakistan’s shift towards achieving Goal 8 (Decent Work). In March 2019, Artistic Milliner became the first denim company in Pakistan to carry the Fair Trade USA stamp. There are only 50 factories in the world that run the Fair Trade business model.
In addition to creating a clean and safe workplace, Murtaza works tirelessly on gender quality issues: helping women live more satisfying lives; improving the company’s bottom line; and advancing Goal 5 (Gender Equality). The Board of Directors — the decision makers of the firm — is now composed of 16 men and 16 women. In 2012, when Murtaza assumed responsibility for the garments division, only one woman sat on the board.
Murtaza has developed a campaign — #WomenatMilliners — and expanded its momentum through partnerships with other groups. This includes Levi Strauss & Co. on adult literacy and microfinance literacy projects, and with the Gap through its Personal Advancement & Career Enhancement programme for working women.
He uses the factory floors as spaces for social change and has collaborated with other organizations, such as the International Centre for Research on Women, a global research firm based in Washington D.C., and Business for Social Responsibility, to measure and quantify the impact of decent work and gender equality on business operations.
Murtaza also led the establishment of free, in-house daycare centres for the company’s minimum wage female workers. Artistic Milliners is working with the International Finance Corporation, part of the World Bank Group, through their Tackling Childcare programme on this project, which advances Goal 5.
Murtaza also has launched a Diversity and Inclusion Strategy, which aims to help the most marginalized groups in Pakistani society, including women, transgender people, differently-abled people and acid burn victims. For each of these groups, Murtaza developed partnerships with local organizations to provide training sessions, jobs, therapy and counselling that could help these vulnerable people integrate into the mainstream workforce.
This strategy is just one Artistic Milliners uses to integrate the Ten Principles into its business strategy. The company has a zero-tolerance policy on forced and child labour. In synch with environmental Principles 7, 8 and 9, Murtaza helped create Artistic Lab, Denim Research & Innovation Center in Dubai, to develop innovative solutions, such as chemical-free washes. The denim manufacturing industry is a major user of water and the company is a signatory of the CEO Water Mandate, a Compact initiative, and part of the Alliance for Water Stewardship.
Artistic Milliners has been a participant of the United Nations Global Compact since April 2018 and is an active member of Global Compact Network Pakistan. Through Network Pakistan, the company has become a signatory to the Women’s Empowerment Principles and participated in Network Pakistan forums, such as “Linking SDGs with Sustainable Business Growth”, in 2018.