UNDP, JS Bank and IBA Karachi join hands to finance Climate-resilient SMEs in Pakistan

Pakistan (Muhammad Yasir)

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with IBA’s Center for Entrepreneurial Development (IBA-CED) and JS Bank conducted the finale of the SDGs Innovative Financing Challenge Cup to promote sustainable and climate-resilient businesses in Pakistan. In line with the United Nations Day of Micro, Small, and Medium-sized Enterprises (UN MSMEs Day), the initiative also underscored UNDP, JS Bank, and IBA’s commitment to supporting MMEs in Pakistan.

The event welcomed a diverse audience of over 350 attendees, including students from IBA and other universities, vocational training institutes, startups, along with representatives from IBA-CED, JS Bank, UNDP Pakistan and Business Incubation Centers (BICs).

This first-of-its-kind initiative, the SDGs Innovative Financing Challenge Cup aims to pioneer a unique blended financing approach combining a public-private partnership to identify and support climate-resilient projects tackling social and environmental challenges aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The SDGs Innovative Financing Challenge Cup attracted over 200 applications across the country. Through a rigorous selection process, 30 SMEs and projects were shortlisted, and participated in capacity-building workshops. This workshop equipped participants with valuable skills in areas including product design, financial planning, and marketability and SDGs related blended financing.

The competition intensified as the 30 projects were further narrowed down to the top 10 finalists. The event finale culminated in the announcement of the winning projects, chosen by a panel of evaluators from UNDP Pakistan, JS Bank, and IBA. The top four SME’s & Projects received a unique blend of financial support – a combination of grants from UNDP Pakistan (10 million PKR each) followed by financing from JS Bank to propel their impactful solutions forward. The winning SMEs were adjudged in the following order: first place, Vitality Vehicles (Vlektra), which manufactures electric motorcycles to reduce emissions, second place, Concept Loop, which diverts plastic waste into building materials, third place, Knowledge Platform, which creates educational games to promote environmental literacy, and fourth place Davaam Life, which promotes refillable products to reduce waste. 

Ammara Durrani, Assistant Resident Representative, Development Policy Unit, UNDP Pakistan, said, “This initiative marks a significant milestone, as it is the first time that such blended financing is being offered. Our aim is not just to offer blended finances to these chosen projects but also help them build their capacities and foster meaningful linkages within the private sector for future cooperation”.

Dr. Lalarukh Ejaz, Director IBA-CED welcomed the guests and participants and briefed about the project. She stated that, “The collaboration between UNDP, JS Bank, and IBA-CED to organize an SDGs Innovative Finance Challenge Cup, aimed at encouraging entrepreneurs with SDG-aligned projects to pitch their innovative solutions”.

Syed Jafar Raza, Group Head Investment, International & Transactional Banking, JS Bank expressed that, “This collaboration between JS Bank, UNDP, and IBA is a powerful example of how public-private partnerships can drive positive change. By combining our expertise as a financial service provider and UNDP’s knowledge in sustainable development, we aim to empower and nurture creative solutions with a positive social impact and contribute to sustainable Pakistan”.

The SDGs Innovative Financing Challenge Cup marks a significant achievement, fostering a robust ecosystem for climate resilience, inclusive insurance, and groundbreaking social enterprises in Pakistan, therefore paving the way for a more sustainable future for all.