A group of high-level government officials and academics from Pakistan are in Australia this month building a ‘toolkit’ of business best practices with help from the University of Southern Queensland.
The Australian Centre for Sustainable Business and Development and the Australian Centre for Sustainable Catchments, based at USQ, secured a grant through AusAID’s Australian Leadership Awards Fellowship program to bring the Pakistani officials to Australia.
The four-week program — ‘Fostering Business Sustainability for Competitiveness in Small and Medium Size Enterprises (SMEs)’ — will lead to widespread distribution of the knowledge gained, promoting sustainable business development long after the officials return to their home country.
The Australian Centre for Sustainable Business and Development and Australian Centre for Sustainable Catchments at USQ are delivering the leadership development program for fellows from the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Authority (SMEDA) in Pakistan and the Balochistan University of Information Technology, Engineering, and Management Sciences (BUITEMS).
SMEDA chief executive officer Yousaf Naseem Khokhar said it had been incredibly beneficial meeting Australian entrepreneurs and experts in the sustainability field.
‘The best aspect has been that we are not only learning the theoretical angles, we are visiting these entrepreneurs at their businesses and learning how to put the strategies into practice,’ Mr Khokhar said.
The group has visited leading sustainable businesses right across Australia, including Rockote at the Sunshine Coast, Cookers, Close the Loop and Ralph Plarre Bakehouses in Melbourne, Ontera Carpets and Focus Press in Sydney, The Good Guys at Capalaba and Tilly’s Crawler Parts and Geiger Civil & Electrical in Toowoomba .
Business leaders and several external presenters also presented workshops for the group at the two campuses of USQ in Toowoomba and Springfield.
While in Sydney, the group even had the privilege of dining with Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Australia, His Excellency Mr Abdul Malik Abdullah.
‘It has been an invigorating, intellectually stimulating program,’ Mr Khokhar said.
‘I think this visit will be a breakthrough in terms of introducing Australia, the Australian work ethic, businesses and culture into the SME sector in Pakistan.
‘There are strong opportunities for development in Pakistan and if more PhD students are able to study through this university I think it could put USQ firmly on the academic map as a destination of choice for Pakistani students in Australia.’
Esma Mariam Rashid is a manager at SMEDA and also the project director at the Women Business Incubation Centre in Lahore.
Ms Rashid said she was most impressed at how Australian women ‘think outside the box’ when it comes to incorporating sustainability into their work.
She said there were great opportunities to promote sustainability in small and medium enterprises in Pakistan because many women ran small businesses selling clothing, cosmetics and jewellery.
‘Business is definitely about making money, but not at the cost of the environment or the community,’ Ms Rashid said.
‘Ladies in Pakistan can utilise the knowledge we’ve learned here in Australia — they can learn how their business can have a positive impact on their community while also generating a profit.’
Balochistan University’s Director of University Advancement and Financial Assistance, Muhammad Shah Khan, said he had plans to run seminars and workshops for the university’s 6000 students using the sustainability knowledge gained in Australia.
‘This is such an important issue so it is something we are looking at very closely,’ Mr Khan said.
‘We intend to make the courses mandatory for all of our students so they can then take the message to the masses.
‘This is the first project between USQ and Balochistan, but I think it is going to provide a roadmap for future joint ventures.
‘This is only just the beginning.’
Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research and Innovation Professor John Cole said sustainability was a goal that needed to become a high priority for the global community.
‘The challenges of sustainable development are not restricted to any one country, community or company and much can be achieved to promote economic innovation and eco-efficiency by sharing ideas, experiences and plans,’ Professor Cole said.
‘USQ has leading expertise which is showing business here and overseas just what can be achieved when sustainability is made a core strategy.’
Project Leaders Associate Professor Retha Wiesner and Dr Shahbaz Mushtaq said the program had proved invaluable for the delegates from both countries.
‘This four week program comprising topics from High Performance Management Practices, Entrepreneurship Development and Business Sustainability to Climate Change issues provides delegates with a unique opportunity to learn from innovative best practices in various Australian SMEs.’
‘We are also currently working on several future collaborative strategies to build upon the learnings from this program.’
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