A July report from the Trades Union Congress (TUC), The Union Effect: Greening the Workplace, explores six U.K. case studies in which notable attempts were made to improve workplace environmental footprints, including a government department, a hospital, a port, and a financial services company. While some initiatives were instigated by management and achieved variable success rates, unions played key roles overall. In some cases, unions pro-actively worked for environmental change, for example by educating members directly or instigating campaigns.
In other cases, they supported initiatives by helping shape workplace behaviour and “staff culture”, working closely with management, and adding staff input to the planning process. In general, unions saw it as their role to lobby employers to view a green workplace as a long-term investment. Unfortunately, the current reliance on voluntary commitments meant that environmental initiatives sometimes stalled or failed as enthusiasm waned. The report concludes that “the right for a recognised trade union to appoint union environmental reps could have a transformative effect”, and that there are three essential underpinnings to success: “sufficient time off for appropriate and relevant environmental training; sufficient time to carry out an energy and environmental audit with management; by agreement with management, the option to establish a joint environment forum”.
The Union Effect: Greening the Workplace is available at: http://www.tuc.org.uk/economic-issues/social-issues/environment/climate-change/union-effect-greening-workplace