The Role of Work and the Labour Movement to Slow Global Warming

PrintWork in a Warming World, released by McGill Queen’s University Press on April 15, begins with the acknowledgement that the world of work – goods, services, and resources – produces most of the greenhouse gases created by human activity. In ten chapters, the book’s contributors demonstrate “how the world of work and the labour movement need to become involved in the struggle to slow global warming, and the ways in which environmental and economic policies need to be linked dynamically in order to effect positive change”. The book is organized into “Trends and Challenges”, such as the dilemma of the Canadian labour movement, and gender analysis of emissions reduction, and “Making Green Work”, with examples from the construction, hospitality, and energy industry, as well as chapters on sustainable infrastructure and its implications for the engineering profession, and the role of cities and the green economy. The book has a Canadian focus, but includes an international context. Chapters were written by associates of the Work in a Warming World research project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, led by Professor Carla Lipsig-Mummé.

Good Jobs and GHG Reductions Promised by Vancouver Transit Plan

Good Jobs, Clean Skies examines the potential economic and climate impacts of the Mayors’ Council Regional Transit Plan, which calls for an investment of $7.5 billion over the next ten years, to cope with the expected immigration of 1 million new residents to the Vancouver Tri-City area.

The analysis forecasts 26,322 person years of new direct employment, 43,800 person years of total employment, $2.96 billion in wages, and $4.48 billion toward GDP in Metro Vancouver over its 10 year life span. Additionally, the area would experience an 8.2% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions from transport, versus a business as usual approach, and the plan would save more than $1 billion in traffic congestion costs. By improving by 7% the number of jobs accessible by transit, the Plan would support targets for livability, growth, and location of employment.

The study is a co-publication of Green Jobs BC and Blue Green Canada. In February 2015, the Mayors Council had released a report by InterVISTAS Consulting, The Economic Impact of Mayors’ Transportation and Transit Plan 2014 – 2045. That report forecasts direct, indirect and induced jobs, finding 40,000 jobs created for the capital phase, and 197,000 created in operations from 2014-2045. The consultants’ report doesn’t address other economic benefits such as reduced congestion, improved goods movement, and improved labour mobility, nor does it forecast the environmental benefits. The Transit Plan is subject to a Referendum vote underway until  May 29, 2015. 

Employee-Related Initiatives at Canada’s Greenest Workplaces

The results of the 9th annual Canada’s Greenest Employers competition were made available online at the Globe and Mail on Earth Day. “Canada’s greenest employers help the Earth – and their bottom lines” (April 22) is a quick overview, but the online list of winners allows readers to select each employer by name, and find much more detail on the reasons why they were selected: e.g. unique initiatives, presence of an environmental audit, organizational responsibility for green initiatives, building LEED rating, community initiatives, etc. Companies are listed both for the environmental impact of their products/services, and their workplace policies. For example, Nature’s Path is an organic food manufacturer in Richmond, B.C., but was also cited for its mandatory sustainability training for all new employees. Keilhauer, a custom furniture manufacturer in Toronto, is included for its in-house “Design for Environment” employee training program, which began in 2011 and sparked the switch to more environmentally-responsible manufacturing processes such as water-based wood stains and  FSC-certified wood. Not all employers on the list produce green products: e.g. Labatt’s Breweries is included because of its significant water and waste reduction programs, and for its employee engagement initiatives – all employee suggestions for green improvements are entered into a searchable database so employees in any of the parent company Anheuser-Busch locations around the world can learn from each other. The Greenest Employers list is linked to the Eluta job search engine to aid job-seekers who prefer to work for a green company.

Organizations will need Leaders with Sustainability Competencies

Sustainability Talent Management: The New Business Imperative is a consultant’s report released in April by Alberta firm Strandberg Consulting. Arguing that companies will need to reinvent themselves to secure their access to resources and the social license to operate and grow, the author reviewed the business and human resource management literature since 2005 to arrive at five competencies required for leaders to successfully cope with the sustainability issues. These are: systems thinking, external collaboration, social innovation, sustainability literacy, and active values. It concludes: “Professional associations, management education and business schools should consider their role in equipping future leaders with these competencies. HR, talent and learning and development professionals can identify gaps in their current approach to leadership development and build these leadership qualities to enable future sustainable and commercial success. Organizations can use these competencies to enhance the talent pipeline and develop the next generation of leaders and the organizational capacities to steer corporations toward a sustainable future for all”.

U.S. Climate Policy Considers Health Effects of Climate Change, Including Occupational Health

On April 7th, the Obama administration announced a series of new initiatives which will highlight the health risks of climate change, especially for children, the elderly and the vulnerable. In the companion Climate and Health Assessment report released by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, outside workers are identified as exceptionally vulnerable to heat extremes. ” Certain occupational groups that spend a great deal of time exposed to extreme temperatures such as agricultural workers, construction workers, and electricity and pipeline utility workers are at increased risk for heat-and cold-related illness, especially where jobs involve heavy exertion… Lack of heat illness prevention programs that include provisions for acclimatization was found to be a factor strongly associated with death”. The report cites numerous other reports on heat  effects, including a 2014 report from the Centers for Disease Control, “Heat Illness and Death Among Workers – United States, 2012-2013”.