Go Green at Work
A handbook for union
Go Green at Work
Climate change presents a challenge Trade unionists have a special insight into
the battle against climate change. We
to everybody, and the time has come understand the power of collective action
when we must act. Some of the and believe individuals can best tackle
climate change when working together.
measures needed are straightforward
and relatively painless. Others may Just as we understand the power of
the collective in the workplace, we also
be more difficult. But unions have understand the need for international
to be involved – winning workplace solidarity. Climate changes impacts on us all,
and most of all, those in the developing world.
commitment, encouraging reluctant
employers, and making sure that far- The TUC is supported by the Carbon Trust
Networks Initiative, in a project to help
reaching change is fairly negotiated. our members reduce energy usage and cut
Making workplaces sustainable is the carbon emissions.
key to making jobs sustainable. Together, we can tackle climate
General Secretary, TUC
Twenty questions when working out how green your workplace is:
1. Has the organisation had an environmental or carbon audit?
2. Has it implemented any recommendations?
3. Are unions involved in progressing environmental decisions? (see p19)
4. Does the employer have an accredited Environmental or Carbon Management System (see p27)
which should include a way of prioritising, monitoring and working with staff and union(s)?
5. Does heating or cooling keep workers comfortable without wasting energy? (see p31)
6. Is the workplace properly insulated and draught-proofed?
7. Are the thermostats in the right places and set to the right temperature
(19ºC for heating, 24ºC for cooling)?
8. Are there automatic power reducing features, e.g. motion sensor lights, timers, power downs?
9. Are all bulbs low energy? Are all computer monitors flat-screen?
10. Are eco-options for equipment enabled and arestaff trained on using equipment in an
11. Is all equipment turned off fully when not in use? If not, why?
12. Is there a commitment to buying equipment and goods only when necessary, and sourced from
suppliers with good labour and environmental standards?
13. Is offsetting only carried out as a last resort after looking at energy saving, sourcing green electricity,
and onsite renewable/CHP generation? (see p41-46)
14. Is there an up-to-date travel plan that promotes low-carbon transport and reduces unnecessary
travel, negotiated with the union? (see p47)
15. Are there effective procedures to minimise the use of all resources including energy, paper, raw
materials, packaging and disposable items? (see p54)
16. Is everything recycled that can be, and is everything bought recycled where possible?
17. Are water saving measures in place? (see p59)
18. Are the catering arrangements satisfactory or is food over-processed or packaged?
19. Does the organisation know its carbon footprint? (see p80)
20. What key environmental indicators does it publish? (see the ‘Research’ section)
Go Green at Work 1
2 Taking action
3 How to use this handbook
3 The case for action
5 What can we do?
6 Why is climate change a trade union issue?
10 Union green reps – an overview
15 Mapping workplace environmental concerns
19 Negotiating on climate change
27 Environmental management systems, labelling and accreditation
30 Understanding the issues
31 Heating, cooling, ventilation and insulation
36 Lighting and electrical equipment
41 Renewable energy
47 Work-related transport
54 Reduce, re-use, recycle
63 Green finance and investment
67 Greener procurement and supply chain
68 Beyond the Workplace – policy and campaigning
73 How to use these resources
74 1. A model Joint Environment and Climate Change Agreement
80 2. Calculating carbon savings
83 3. Running a union ‘green’ event
86 4. Suggested survey
89 5. Transport review form
92 6. Union green representative appointment form
93 7. Research and sources of further information
95 8. Glossary of terms and jargon buster
Go Green at Work 3
“It is within our gift, within this generation, to either save or
destroy the planet we live on. It all boils down to the choices
we make now.”
Frances O’Grady TUC Deputy General Secretary
How to use this handbook
Have you been wondering:
• what union members can do about climate change?
• why everyone is talking about ‘carbon footprints’?
• how workplaces can reduce their energy usage?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then read on.
This handbook is aimed at trade unionists most types of employer and details of support for
who have an interest in the environment, and organisations.
particularly climate change. It is a practical guide
to taking action in the workplace, which we hope This handbook is one of the outputs of the TUC
will inspire you. The first section, Taking action, GreenWorkplaces project, which has benefited
gives guidance on researching the environmental from the support of the Carbon Trust’s Network
performance of your workplace and negotiating programme.
for improvements, and includes a list of suggested
workplace activities (see p11-12).
The case for action
The second section, Understanding the issues,
covers tips on specific issues (like heating, electricity, Climate change is a growing concern for all of us.
water use or transport). The third section, We don’t need to be scientists to talk with others
Resources, includes a model agreement that you about climate change – it’s much more important to
may like to use, including terms of reference for a talk about our personal experiences and concerns.
Joint Environmental Committee and the union green But, briefly, scientists say that by burning oil, coal
rep role. It also has a jargon buster, guidance on and gas (fossil fuels), either directly or while making
measuring carbon and energy and putting on green electricity, we are emitting too much carbon dioxide
events at work. (CO2), which is causing climate change. Workplaces
burn energy, consume resources and generate waste
This handbook is available to browse online at and travel so they are an obvious place to tackle
www.sustainableworkplace.co.uk. You might climate change.
also want to visit www.carbontrust.co.uk/shrink
for additional factsheets, checklists and case
studies, including sector-specific information for
4 Taking action – The case for action
The science is clear effects of climate change, and the 2003 heat wave
killed over 2,000 people in the UK alone. The UN
The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), predicts that in 2010 there will be up to 50 million
the UN’s panel of climate change scientific experts, environmental refugees.
has spent years assessing the scientific evidence
from across the world. In 2007 it concluded that There is scientific consensus that an increase of
“warming of the climate system is unequivocal”. over 2ºC must be prevented as it would have
damaging worldwide impacts and the possibility
The IPCC also concluded unanimously that the
of reaching a ‘tipping point’ where devastating,
cause of climate change was “very likely” due to
possibly catastrophic, climate change would
increased amounts of greenhouse gas emissions,
like carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, which become unstoppable, accelerated by harm to the
trap the sun’s heat. It stated that this was “due ice, seas and forests (which currently absorb or
primarily to fossil fuel use and land-use change”. reflect much of our CO2). Many scientists, like
Greenhouse gas concentrations have increased by James Hansen (formerly the US chief climate
nearly a third since the Industrial Revolution. scientist), now think we have less than 10 years to
act before it is too late.
According to the IPCC, average global temperatures
have already increased by nearly 1ºC. It might
not sound like much, but we are already seeing Key facts
more extreme weather as a result, including heat
The Kyoto Treaty requires the most developed
waves, hurricanes, floods and droughts. Currently
150,000 deaths a year are attributable to the countries to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by
5 per cent on average by 2012. The treaty covers six
• Carbon dioxide (CO2) – carbon emissions from
burning fossil fuels (coal, oil, petrol, natural gas)
• Methane – principal sources include livestock
and decaying waste.
• Nitrous oxide – the main source is use of
• Hydrofluorocarbons – substitutes for CFCs, and
used as solvent/cleaning agents, refrigerants,
foam-blowing agents, and air conditioning fluids.
• Perfluorocarbons – by-products of aluminium
• Sulphur hexafluoride – a gas used in the
electronics industry as an insulator.
About 85 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions are
Go Green at Work 5
Why this matters pollutants and toxins are damaging the health of
people and life on the planet – and our chances
The UK Government’s chief economist, Nicholas of passing on a pleasant and safe environment to
Stern, calculated that it would cost one per cent of our children. For example, a quarter of the world’s
global income to tackle climate change if we start population live in areas where air pollution exceeds
now. If we don’t, the cost of dealing with the results WHO safety standards, and 90 per cent of the UK’s
could reduce income per head “by between five and factories are located in the 10 per cent poorest areas.
20 per cent”. The report made clear that “business
as usual” would lead to “more than a 50/50 chance
that the temperature rise would exceed 5ºC. This
“The roots of environmental
rise would be very dangerous indeed.” injustice directly reflect
There are other reasons why we need to reduce our inequalities in power. It’s
use of fossil fuel energy. Fuel security is becoming easier to locate and maintain
more of an issue, and costs are rising (with some
analysts predicting oil at $200 a barrel in the next highly polluting enterprises in
few years). This is for several reasons. Oil reserves communities without power.”
have already peaked; the output of many existing oil
and gas fields (including the North Sea) is dropping Michael Belliveau
and much of the remaining oil is difficult, expensive US environmental activist
and damaging to extract. Demand is growing from
rapidly industrialising countries like China and much
of the remaining oil and gas is in unstable regions like What can we do?
the Middle East, Africa and the former Soviet Union,
We have to stop rising CO2 emissions by
where arguably, its availability worsens conflict.
reducing our use of fossil fuel energy.
The focus of this handbook is climate change, but International action is important, but developing
there are further environmental concerns too. Other countries like China will agree to limiting their
6 Taking action – A trade union issue
CO2 emissions only if developed countries, like the
UK, also take strong action to reduce their own
“We do not have to wait for
emissions and adopt more climate-friendly ways major technical breakthroughs
of living and working. This is doubly important, as to make deep cuts in emissions.
a significant proportion of developing countries’
emissions – around a quarter, in the case of China We know that there is already
– are generated by producing goods for Western huge scope for change…
Ecological sustainability is about
“The developing world cannot social justice; it is not about the
fairly be expected to take affluent – the biggest polluters
action on climate change until – buying their way out of their
the developed world accepts obligations. The changes that are
responsibility for its role in past needed require a combination of
and present carbon emissions individual and collective action.”
and acts accordingly” Compass – The Environment We Inhabit, 2007
Why is climate
SERA, Red Green Socialism, 2007
In September 2006 the Tyndall Climate Centre in
Manchester advised that a nine per cent annual
reduction in UK emissions was necessary to
change a trade union
stabilise the climate, “with drastic cuts by 2010”.
UK energy consumption has been increasing by
about 1 per cent a year since 1990. Trade unions have a long history of taking action
on environmental issues, campaigning for a safer,
Most governments agree that increasing energy
healthier working and living environment. The
efficiency is key in the battle against climate
workplaces that unions organise – and seek to
change. Not only is it the quickest way to reduce
organise – burn energy, consume resources and
CO2 emissions – giving us more time to reduce our
generate waste. Over half of carbon emissions are
dependence on fossil fuels and also to increase the
work-related and British companies waste £1 billion
supply of alternative energy sources – but it would
of energy every year, so there is huge scope to act.
also have huge financial benefits. Workplaces are
Workplaces are better placed than individuals to
key places to start making these energy savings.
install cost-effective measures.
Individuals, unions, communities, employers and
governments all have a role to play.
Go Green at Work 7
There is a wide range of benefits to unions and
workers if environmental matters are included on
the collective bargaining agenda:
• Environmental protection benefits everyone.
• Jobs are protected by reducing energy costs
rather than staffing costs.
• By investing in improvement of the buildings,
processes, equipment and/or staff training, the
employer is making a long-term commitment to
the future of the organisation.
• Extending the areas of policy and expenditure
on which unions are informed and consulted, to
include environmental questions.
• Anticipating possible future changes in the
organisation, particularly when energy costs
• Being aware of any external pressures on the
organisation, including issues around non-
compliance with environmental regulations.
“Climate change and • If organisations achieve cost savings, a
environmental destruction are proportion could be reserved for rewarding staff
directly, e.g. through bonus schemes.
key issues that will impact on • Alternatively, savings can be ring-fenced for
the union’s membership and further environmental investment within the
their families across all sectors organisation, or donated to charities selected by
staff. Either of these could form part of a ‘green
throughout this century and fund’ overseen by a joint environment committee.
beyond according to the vast • Action and learning at work can encourage
majority of scientific opinion.” greater energy and money savings at home
(helping tackle fuel poverty), and vice versa.
Unite/Amicus National Executive, 2007 • Healthier, safer workplaces – for example, correct
temperatures, improved natural daylight (see p24).
“It is within our gift, within this • Improved transport arrangements for workers.
generation, to either save or • Organising benefits.
destroy the planet we live on. It • Encouraging employers to create new, greener jobs.
• More flexible working arrangements.
all boils down to the choices we
make now.” According to a recent YouGov survey, 70 per cent
of workers said they would like to do more about
Frances O’Grady climate change but felt that they needed more
TUC Deputy General Secretary support from their employers. Only a fifth thought
8 Taking action – A trade union issue
A Stern warning
The Stern report states: “The investment that takes place in the next
10 to 20 years will have a profound effect on the climate in the second
half of this century and in the next. Our actions now and over the
coming decades could create risks of major disruption to economic and
social activity on a scale similar to those associated with the great wars
and the economic depression of the first half of the 20th century. And
it will be difficult or impossible to reverse these changes.”
Source: Stern Review The economics of climate change, 2007
their employer was doing enough. The Labour
Research Department survey of nearly 700 union
Recruiting and organising
reps found that reps were frustrated with the slow Union environmental strategies on greening the
pace of action by employers. While most employers workplace can bring spin-off benefits by renewing
(around two-thirds) had begun to address their union activity at work, addressing a modern and
environmental performance, only one in five had crucial challenge for working people.
comprehensive waste and recycling policies in
place, and even fewer – one in nine – had taken The environment is of major concern to younger
comprehensive action on energy efficiency so far. people, whose interests are often focused on the
Over half of workplaces did not provide training on subject and who may have low awareness of trade
environmental issues and less than a quarter had an unions, while older members see the environment as
environmental management scheme in place. An a fresh reason to get active again.
earlier TUC survey found that 99 per cent of workers This means there is a need for the role of union
supported taking environmental measures at work. green representatives (UGRs) to be fully recognised
There is much you, as a union member, can do. by unions and integrated into their organisation at all
Unions are in a key place to: levels – workplace, branch, regional and national.
• encourage employers to take action
• ensure employers’ public statements on the Economic competitiveness
environment are translated into action in the and green jobs
workplace (not just PR ‘greenwash’)
Government targets, regulation and market
• win workforce commitment
forces are all increasing the pressure for more
• ensure that far-reaching change is fairly environmentally friendly products and services.
negotiated Unions believe that businesses should take a
• make use of existing union rights and negotiate longer-term view of their investment priorities,
for improved ones. products and services, and are beginning to use
environmental arguments and bargaining strategies
to protect the interests of members. The most
Go Green at Work 9
stable jobs of the future will be based on principles
of environmental sustainability.
The need for collective,
The green jobs agenda How will the costs and benefits of efforts to
address global warming be distributed? The
Increasingly, companies and organisations are looking
not just at how they do things, but at what they programmes to deal with climate change can differ
actually do, carrying out ‘full life-cycle analyses’ of widely and there will be job gains and losses in the
their products. Some are even looking at moving into shift to a low-carbon economy. Unions understand
different products and services. This is an area that the power of collective action and believe
the workforce must have a voice in. These changes individuals can tackle environmental problems and
have historical precedents. In the mid-1970s trade make a difference best when they work together.
unionists at Lucas Aerospace, faced with redundancy, This joint approach will help secure long-term
came up with an alternative industrial plan to make investment in green jobs, develop new skills and
more socially and environmentally relevant products, training strategies, and secure a union voice in
including wind turbines and heat pumps, using existing dialogue with government and industry.
skills and machinery.
There are opportunities for new, greener jobs in Global solidarity and
all sectors. Renewable energies like wind and solar
power, and public transport systems, can create
millions of new jobs. Greening the Workplace, a 2005 There is little chance of peace and growing
report by the TUC, highlighted Germany, where over prosperity among the world’s 6.5 billion population
1.5 million people work in environmental technology while inequalities and injustice thrive. Unions have
industries. Of these 200,000 construction workers an obligation to speak out for union members
are employed in a programme that improves the not only in the UK, but also across the world, on
energy efficiency of people’s homes, and 200,000 fundamental issues of wealth, poverty, and the
work in renewable energy. creation of sustainable economies on our ever-
In the US, unions have recently ensured environmental shrinking planet.
clauses are inserted into trade agreements, along with
workers’ rights protection. European trade unions Working time policies
have managed to get similar clauses inserted into
governments’ procurement of public transport rolling Environmental considerations can offer
stock (see p67 for more on procurement). opportunities to ask for more flexible working
time policies. For example, in hot weather the
“When people say [about TUC recommends allowing staff to work more
flexibly, letting them finish early or late to avoid
climate change solutions] ‘this rush hour crushes, and allowing more frequent rest
is expensive’, they also mean, breaks. Night heat is often a problem in heatwaves,
‘this creates jobs’.” meaning disrupted sleep, and policies could be
adapted to take this into account.
Senator Bernie Saunders
the only Independent (Socialist) Senator in the US Flexible hours might also encourage more cycling,
and author of a Climate Change Reduction Bill. as cyclists may be put off by rush hour traffic.
10 Taking action – Union green reps
And in the bigger picture it has been argued (for
example, by Danish trade unions) that avoiding
“Trade unions have a unique
climate change is about sustainable use of all and valuable role to play in
resources, including workers themselves. So raising awareness and mobilising
tackling the long hours culture in the UK would
be more sustainable for human resources, as well people to help us address the
as energy resources used with late-night use of challenge of climate change.
lighting, heating and equipment. At BAe Systems
GMB reps have negotiated a reduction to a four-
I want to congratulate those
day week without loss of pay, with the factory Union Environmental Reps
using less energy.
who have demonstrated how
negotiating skills and experience
Union green reps – an can be used to support
overview environmental outcomes.”
Green initiatives at work often start when someone Joan Ruddock
decides enough is enough, and it’s time to change Climate Change Minister, 2007
the way people work. This section look at the role
of union green reps.
Go Green at Work 11
Who can be a union green rep? 1. The first thing you need to do is gather
information. See p15 for more advice, but
The short answer is anyone keen enough! broadly you’ll need to:
Unions are taking a flexible approach to tackling a. Walk around your building at different
sustainability issues at work; shop stewards may times of the day using the checklists in this
take the lead, as may health and safety reps, or handbook to identify problems and priority
a new breed of UGRs. The TUC believes that areas.
environmental issues should not be ‘ghettoized’ as, b. Ask workers what they think of the working
for example, a safety rep’s function. In unions like environment. You may want to do this as
the GMB and Unite, the role of shop steward often part of your walk-round, but you should also
includes health, safety and environmental issues. give workers other opportunities to express
their views – e.g. through a survey, meeting,
So unions should be flexible – as long as they or training session/workshop.
ensure that UGRs can raise environmental issues
c. Ask management for information on current
with management, be consulted, and ensure action environmental impacts.
2. Establish a forum (e.g. a joint environment
committee) or use existing forums (e.g. a health
What can a union green and safety committee) so that union reps can
rep do? raise outstanding issues with management and
get them on the bargaining agenda (see p19).
Just as unions and employers work together to 3. Work with management and other union reps
improve health and safety in the workplace, through to negotiate workplace agreements on specific
safety committees where trade union appointed environmental issues, including facilities time
safety reps negotiate with management, UGRs can for union green reps (see p19).
be elected to champion environmental issues in the 4. Use the Resources section to see how your
workplace. They can raise awareness of green issues workplace’s energy and environmental
in the workplace and ensure that they are included performance compare with others that are
in the negotiating/bargaining agenda. similar. This will give you an idea of what is
achievable, and something to compare back
Their main concern is to agree a joint approach with after you’ve taken action.
to ‘greening the workplace’, ideally formalised in
5. Work together to implement awareness
a collective agreement and overseen by an schemes (see p26), open days (see p83) and
employer/union committee that addresses training (see p14) to promote actions that
environmental issues. staff can take themselves to save energy and
resources and improve working conditions.
Where do I start?
6. Ask management to quickly implement
You might want to look at training courses first measures that are low cost (i.e. have quick
(p14). If you want to start with a few simple actions payback times, of less than a year).
like putting up posters, or informal discussions with 7. Negotiate for investment in longer-term
colleagues to encourage them to get involved, then options like more energy- or resource-efficient
go for it. If you’re keen to do more, here are some systems, equipment, machinery and building
suggested steps: fabric, or renewable energy generation.
12 Taking action – Union green reps
8. Prioritise; consider what issues are most often join the union as a direct result of UGRs’
important in your workplace. Don’t try to do positive work on the environment, and may become
everything at once. advocates or activists within. Talking to colleagues
9. Be careful that a change introduced to solve about the environment may also give you the
one problem does not create difficulties opportunity to explain more about trade unions
elsewhere. generally. A useful leaflet on the reasons to join a
10. Get outside advice where appropriate, and trade union is available from www.unionlearn.org.
consider whether an accreditation scheme uk/learning/learn-1979-f0.cfm
could be helpful. Finding out about people’s environmental concerns
11. Remember to feed back to colleagues about will raise the profile of your union and could also
what is happening, through newsletters, be used to identify areas of strength and weakness
meetings, noticeboards and discussions. for union organisation in your workplace: Where
12. Don’t worry! You don’t have to do all of this are your members/non-members? Are men more
– and certainly not all at once, or by yourself. likely to join the union than women (or vice versa)?
This handbook aims to give you guidance on all Are some departments or sections better organised
the above areas. than others, and if so why?
There is no specific limit on the number of UGRs The environment and organising are both
– it will depend on the size of the workplace, important in their own right. If members feel
though if time off is required (see below) this will that environmental issues are only being used as
need to be taken into consideration. By using a recruitment tool, campaigning will probably be
environmental issues as organising issues you can less successful. Every workplace is different, and
also encourage involvement from other members. in planning your greening the workplace project
remember to value the environment for its own sake.
As stated above, negotiating an environment and
climate change agreement, and establishing a Joint
Environment Committee, will help ensure roles and What rights do UGRs have?
responsibilities are clearly laid down. You will be The short answer is, it depends. In an organisation
able to get support from union and management that formally recognises a trade union, the union’s
colleagues for many of these activities. representatives, including shop stewards, health
and safety reps, and other lay officials enjoy two
Organising key legal rights:
Greening the workplace can’t be ‘done’ to members. 1. Time off with pay to carry out their various trade
Instead you’ll need to think creatively about how you union duties. Where this relates to negotiations
engage them in projects or activities. with employers over specific matters, such as
pay and conditions, recruitment, work allocation,
Encourage members to take on the UGR role, or
or representing individual members in grievance
simply ask them to help with surveys, walk-rounds
and disciplinary cases.
or distributing publicity about the project in their
work area. 2. Time off to attend union-organised training.
Also, think about how you can include non-members In the TUC’s GreenWorkplaces projects, and many
in greening the workplace projects. Non-members other workplaces, unions have been extending
Go Green at Work 13
these rights to cover a widening environmental facilities time (time off with pay for training and to
agenda at work. carry out their duties).
In addition, health and safety reps enjoy specific Reps have also negotiated the creation of new joint
rights under the Safety Reps and Safety Committees environment committees. In most workplaces
Regulations 1977. Under these regulations: the bargaining agenda is decided through
• Recognised unions have the right to appoint negotiation, not by law, so there is no reason
workplace health and safety reps. why environmental issues should not be formally
included in the bargaining agenda.
• Employers must set up a joint health and safety
committee and consult with safety reps on European Works Councils
workplace safety issues.
• Safety reps have a range of rights to investigate If you are a union representative in a multinational
health and safety issues at work. company that operates in several European
countries, there may be a European Works Council
This means that through agreement with the (EWC). Your union should be able to tell you if
employer the scope of union activities can be there is an EWC operating in your company and
extended to cover environmental issues at work, who the UK members are. UK EWC members might
such as energy use, recycling and green travel take up environmental issues at this level.
plans, whether that role is covered by shop
stewards, health and safety reps, or Although environmental issues are not listed in the
formally recognised UGRs, who may be new to annex of the EWC’s directive, which sets out the
areas that EWCs should cover, 43 per cent of works
councils do discuss them and reach agreements.
What’s the catch, then?
Despite what has been said above, technically, Integrating green reps into
there is no legal right for a union to elect a the union
specifically green rep and expect the same benefits
as other reps have. In other words, the law is The relationship between UGRs and their branch or
lagging behind best practice at work. workplace committee, and their access to facilities
time, will vary by union. It is up to local branches
The TUC is campaigning for better rights for UGRs, to resolve these issues, but always seek advice from
to help them influence the environmental agenda your union if in doubt. UGRs can best help the
at work. The campaign includes the call for legal union to organise around environmental issues if
rights to paid time off to carry out these functions, they are fully recognised by unions and integrated
and to attend training, through amendments to into their organisation at all levels – workplace,
the ACAS Code of Practice, Time off for Trade Union branch, regional and national.
Duties and Activities.
Many unions now have conference policies
But even without these new rights, many trade supporting green reps. The 2007 UCU conference
unionists have decided to just get on with the made an undertaking to: “Develop the
job and negotiated new rights to be involved in environmental role of union reps and campaign to
environmental issues, for employers to formally extend legal rights to paid release for their duties
recognise the role of UGRs, and for voluntary and training.” Meanwhile, the 2007 Amicus/Unite
agreements with employers on facilities and conference recognised that “the work necessary
14 Taking action – Union green reps
to develop the union’s profile in dealing with the Open College Network. To apply, talk to your
environmental issues may require workplace shop steward, branch secretary or full-time union
representatives to be appointed with a specific official.
remit in this field... environmental issues are an
Visit www.unionlearn.org.uk for details of courses
integral part of the collective bargaining agenda.”
in your region, or to apply for the new online Union
Green Representative course for union reps that need
What do green reps need? a convenient and more flexibly delivered course.
UGRs will require: Getting time off to train
• a reasonable amount of time to carry out
their functions, e.g. workplace inspections; Some union reps have found it difficult to access
meetings with management and colleagues as trade union environmental education courses
necessary; dealing with relevant paperwork; and because of the lack of legal rights to time off for
communication training in this area.
• resources to communicate with members e.g. But union reps can and do negotiate with their
a desk, access to a phone and photocopier, etc. employer to obtain the necessary time off for
Some of these should already be available via environmental training. Check if there is an existing
existing union structures and facilities right to time off for union training, as it often gives
• paid time off to attend relevant training – scope for both new and existing union reps to take
including initial training when taking up the post, a certain number of days.
occasional refresher training to maintain their
Green reps – particularly those who have never
expertise, and specific training in response to
held a union position before – may also wish to
newly identified concerns or key developments
take advantage of other TUC/unionlearn training
in environmental thinking.
available, such as the three-day introductory shop
There is high-level support for the Government to stewards or health and safety courses.
go further. Alan Johnson MP said: “Unions play a big
role in everything from pensions to skills to work-life
balance and the impact of globalisation. Climate
Training for everyone
change and the environment are now so important Training in environmental issues is crucial if
that unions should have a role there as well. For workers are to understand the issues and take
example, the legal responsibilities of health and action in the workplace. Most environmental
safety representatives could be extended to cover accreditation schemes require employers to
environmental protection as well.” demonstrate that key workers have been trained
– and also that all workers have been made aware
Training UGRs of environmental issues. Where it does take place,
good environmental training is often hugely
The effectiveness of UGRs depends very much popular, particularly if it makes the connection
on the training they get. Free training for between people’s working lives and their home
anyone interested in taking on the UGR role is lives. However the 2007 LRD Environment
available through courses provided by the TUC survey of union reps found that fewer than
and individual unions. The TUC runs three-day half of employers had provided any kind of
courses at local colleges that are accredited by environmental training.
Go Green at Work 15
Union reps are in a good place to negotiate for
workers at all levels to be able to take part in Mapping workplace
high-quality, appropriate environmental training
– such as full- or half-day briefings for everyone. environmental
One option is for your employer to work with
your union’s education department, or the concerns
TUC’s Education Department, to put on a joint
environmental training course, at either your
workplace or a nearby college.
When developing your GreenWorkplace project
you will need to find out the specific environmental
concerns of your members or potential members, as
well as the wider company or organisation you work
for. You will have your own areas of interest to focus
Case study: cutting carbon on, but some you might like to consider are:
use at work • energy use in buildings (heating/lighting/IT/
At the Department for Food, Agriculture
and Rural Affairs office in York, PCS and • transport to and for work
Prospect reps have undertaken training in • water use
cutting carbon at work. Energy initiatives are • recycling and reducing waste
being discussed through the existing joint • purchasing policy, e.g. use of recycled materials –
negotiating committee (JNC) on site, with like paper for photocopiers etc.
management supplying baseline environmental
See “Understanding the Issues” section for more
data to the JNC for the first time, enabling
on all of these areas.
them to work out the department’s carbon
footprint. Management has agreed to If you ask people just about ‘being green’ they will
negotiate a sustainability policy and unions often tend to focus solely on recycling and waste as
and management are working together on this is highly visible.
awareness-raising including ‘switch-off’
campaigns. As part of
this, union reps ran a Establishing baselines and
Going Green at Home monitoring progress
training event, which
was open for all to To be able to improve environmental performance
attend. your organisation needs to be clear where it is starting
from, so a key starting point will be establishing a
‘baseline’ of environmental activities, and of impacts.
This will allow you to set targets for action, and check
and report progress on a regular basis. This baseline
will also from the basis of most environmental or
carbon management schemes (see p27).
The quickest way to reduce your workplace’s
carbon footprint is to save energy, so it’s important
16 Taking action – Mapping workplace environmental concerns
to understand exactly how it’s being used during • Ask managers which key personnel they think
your initial survey. are involved with dealing with the environment.
Who is in charge of purchasing?
The TUC’s online carbon log allows reps to do this
• Ask for copies of energy bills. Are they
in relation to energy/carbon. See p80 for more on
estimates? You might also want information on
measuring carbon impacts.
water usage and waste.
• Ask for reports that might have been produced,
Identifying the issues e.g. regular maintenance reports or Carbon Trust
Talk to management or other external expert reports.
• Ask management, or the union health and safety
If you haven’t already made an approach to rep, for any health and safety assessments that
management, now is the time. If they understand have been carried out that may be relevant.
what you are trying to achieve they should be More guidance on health and safety is given
willing to share information with you. throughout this handbook and on p24.
It is a good idea if ‘walk-round audits’ (see p17) are • Is the company/organisation planning any building
carried out jointly between reps and the relevant or refurbishment work? A major refurbishment is
manager(s), which will give you an opportunity to a great opportunity to introduce measures that
build relationships and ask questions about what they might otherwise be too expensive or disruptive to
think the main environmental issues in the workplace carry out. Current building regulations stipulate
are. You might want to carry out other surveys jointly that if a part of a building is being refurbished
too, or you might prefer to keep these confidential. consideration must be given to improving its
energy efficiency. The CWU is currently working
To make things easier and more sustainable in the on greening its training college in Oxford, at the
long run, you could aim to negotiate an agreement same time as carrying out works to improve
that energy and environmental information will be disability access.
shared with the union on a regular basis, preferably
• Are there any relocation plans? Obviously this is
at a Joint Environment Committee.
a sensitive area, but if the workplace is moving
Safety reps have extensive legal rights to to a new building it is a key time to improve
information and to monitor whether appropriate the environmental footprint. Often there is
actions are taken to address risk. You might also a period of uncertainty before a move, which
be able to use legal rights under the Information makes organisations reluctant to invest in capital
and Consultation Directive. See p72 for guidance expenditure, but action taken prior to a move is
on this, and also on how to research what others also worthwhile. It will get people thinking about
are saying about your organisation’s environmental green issues and make it less likely that areas are
performance. overlooked during a move when there are other
concerns to consider. You can find a good guide
Questions to ask (probably not all at once!) at www.wwf.org.uk/core/about/scotland/
• Ask how the facilities or energy managers think sc_0000001900.asp
the systems are controlled and maintained • Have they considered no-cost and low-cost
and what the issues are – their answers may be measures? What is holding back implementation?
different from those the staff have given you.
• Have they considered fitting automatic energy-
saving features like motion sensor lights in
Go Green at Work 17
low-use areas, and automatic power down lighting or equipment that should be off. If possible,
of equipment after working hours? These are walk round the building late at night or early in the
popular with staff and increasingly widely morning to see what has been left on and where, or
implemented. They are also often recommended work with management to take readings last thing
in Carbon Trust expert surveys. in the evening, and first thing in the morning. Does
• Are they considering longer-term measures? the amount of energy used overnight surprise you?
Employers may have had cost assessments done
in the past, but with the spiralling fuel costs of
recent years, such sums might look different now.
See Understanding the issues for more ideas on
UGRs carry out periodic walk-round inspections of
the workplace to check for outstanding issues, similar
to those carried out by health and safety reps but with
a significantly different focus. These aim to identify
the key areas where energy is being wasted.
Your walk-round doesn’t have to cover the whole
workplace at once, but it could interest your
colleagues in saving energy and encourage them to
get involved and do walk-rounds of other areas.
It’s a good idea to do a joint walk-round with
the workplace manager responsible for facilities/
energy. Your union may already do joint health and • Talk to workers and get them to suggest ideas
safety inspections so you could adapt that model, and discuss possible solutions, as well as raising
making sure that any problems are noted down for issues.
prompt action by a named individual and/or raised • Remember to find out what workers on different
at the Joint Environment Committee. shifts, and contract workers, are thinking: they
may have valuable information, particularly if
A full checklist is available at
they are in the building out-of-hours.
www.sustainableworkplace.co.uk and mini-
checklists are included in the Issues section. • Consider doing a survey – a suggested starting
General points to watch out for are: point is on p86. Or you could design a survey
• energy being used unnecessarily on a specific issue, using the checklists in this
handbook. When designing a survey remember
• controls and switches that are not clearly labelled
that someone is going to have to analyse it. Try
• indications of energy waste e.g. workers opening
to ask no more than five or six questions. If you
windows when the heating is on, or wearing light
give people mostly yes/no or multiple-choice
clothing in the middle of winter.
questions that makes it easier to complete and
You will also want to find out how much power is analyse. But always give people a chance to
being used overnight. Much of this will be due to make ‘any other comments’.
18 Taking action – Mapping workplace environmental concerns
Questions to ask
• What do they think the main environmental Case study: Energy
issues are? What solutions can they think of? walk-rounds
What do they think of your ideas?
The TUC’s GreenWorkplaces project has been
• Are there issues about workplace comfort,
training reps to carry out energy walk-rounds
or health and safety, that are related to the
in their workplaces and to adapt existing
environment? What are they?
Carbon Trust energy audit checklists that tend
• Have there been environmental initiatives in the to be aimed at managers, and used them for
past? What do they think of them? union purposes. An example of this adapted
• Who do they think would help deal with checklist can be found at
environmental issues (including heating, www. sustainableworkplace.co.uk.
The Labour Research Department publication
• Do they know when to turn things off? Are they
The Environment and Climate Change – A Guide
sure they are completely ‘off’? Often people
for Union Reps gives examples of reps that
are not quite sure whether something is really
have used imaginative methods to take action.
off, whether they are allowed to turn it off, or
Unite/T&G reps at the North West Institute
whether someone else will come round and do it.
of Higher Education said the union had taken
• Do people understand how, and when, necessary part in an environmental audit of waste
controls and switches should be adjusted? You products and their disposal. A CWU rep at
might need to ask more specific questions like: the Royal Mail had used health and safety risk
• When do they adjust the controls? assessments to raise environmental issues. A
• Why do they adjust the controls (e.g. to PCS rep at Revenue & Customs reported that
increase comfort or work efficiency)? reps had served a Union Improvement Notice
over poor heating and air quality.
Compare how management thinks systems work,
with how staff think they do. Is there a difference? It is important to do walk-rounds a different
This is valuable information that management may times of the day, e.g. at busy times, at
not be aware of, as colleagues may be more willing lunchtime, at the end or before the start of
to raise concerns anonymously through you than the working day when you would expect to be
directly with managers. using less energy. Try to do follow-up walk-
rounds to measure progress at least quarterly,
You can use the information gathered to negotiate e.g. when the clocks change or at the
for change, and to raise awareness. beginning and end of the heating season. Such
inspections could also take place in response
to specific concerns or complaints.
Go Green at Work 19
Negotiating on Commitment from the top and the grassroots
is important. Your committee is likely to need
climate change appropriate union representation, operational
managers and a senior champion with commitment
to green issues as well as the clout to get policies
This section includes advice on negotiating an
and procedures changed – and money spent
environment and climate change agreement, setting
where necessary. Similarly, if there are senior shop
up a joint committee, and making a business case
stewards who are not themselves UGRs, they
for environmental action. There is also a section on
should be involved.
the benefits union involvement can bring, whether
or not the employer has already recognised the If cost savings are achieved, companies could ring-
importance of environmental action. fence them for environmental projects within the
organisation, or donate to external environmental
Setting up a Joint projects. This ‘green fund’ could be overseen by
the Joint Environment Committee, so that staff are
Environment Committee involved in the decision-making. The fund could
To make environmental changes will require staff also be used to give a bonus to staff pay, as another
and management time and commitment. A joint way to incentivise staff to meet targets.
union-management committee can provide the
necessary oversight, structure, and mechanism
for staff involvement. Some reps have established
standalone environment committees; others have
adapted existing committees like health and safety
by extending their terms of reference and personnel.
If an organisation is seeking to get accredited for its
carbon or environmental management system, it
will need to set up such a committee anyway.
Find out who is responsible for environmental policy
and practice. This will frequently be more than one
person and could include managers responsible for
facilities, environment, health and safety, corporate
social responsibility/PR, and possibly human Negotiating a joint
resources (especially if they also look after travel). environment and climate
There may already be a working group, which could
be a basis on which to build. All these people, as well
as union reps, will have important information about Negotiating an environment and climate change
environmental issues. agreement, either as a standalone agreement or
within an existing agreement, can help:
Information is linked to commitment, because
people at all levels are more likely to act if they • secure employer commitment to environmental
understand the financial and environmental action, not just policies on paper
impact of measures. It’s a good idea to ensure • ensure that environmental plans or strategies
the committee is clearly agreed on who has reflect what members want, not just what
responsibility to make information available. management wants
20 Taking action – Negotiating on climate change
• ensure that workplace green projects and • mutual roles, responsibilities and procedures for
initiatives support the wider work of the union in dealing with issues
the organisation. • clear objectives and monitoring policies
You can negotiate with the employer a separate • the establishment of a joint environment
joint environment and climate change agreement, committee comprising equal numbers of union
or include it within existing arrangements for and employer representatives
union recognition and facilities time, or as part of a • links to health and safety, statutory risk
general agreement over such core issues as pay and assessments, and other policies and structures
conditions, or health and safety. It will very much • the undertaking of environmental and energy
depend on what is right for your workplace, and surveys and audits
your union’s policy and practice.
• regular promotional activities regarding the
Your union’s full-time officer or organiser should environment
be able to help you negotiate an environment • right to information on energy and
agreement, and you can also get support from your environmental issues.
union’s environment policy officer and/or the TUC’s
GreenWorkplaces project leader. If you do negotiate an agreement on any
environmental issue, be sure to send a copy to
If your organisation is seeking an accredited www.lrd.org.uk so that others can benefit from
environmental management scheme, then a your good practice.
signed-off joint environment agreement with terms
of reference that include continually improving
environmental performance, and an outline of roles Case study: setting up a Joint
and responsibilities of the key players, will be useful
evidence. Environmental Committee
You could negotiate a Joint Environment and PCS reps at the Land Registry have a Joint
Climate Change agreement around the model Environmental Committee that has discussed and
on p74. This can be tailored to meet the needs of implemented a range of measures. These include
your members, the policies of your union, and the using toilet tissue and hand towels made from
context of your workplace. recycled paper, saving electricity with low-voltage
lighting, tinted windows, no air conditioning and
A joint environment and climate change agreement temperature-controlled heating. Workplaces have
can include some or all of the following: posters up about water, windows and electricity
• a commitment from both parties to the use, and staff are encouraged to turn off
environment, employee involvement, and computers and photocopiers. Chill
continuous improvement machines use mains water
rather than bottles.
• the number of UGRs and how the union will
• the amount of permitted paid time off for UGRs
to carry out their duties, and undertake training
• facilities for UGRs such as a room to conduct
interviews, use of telephone, email, web,
noticeboards and so on
Go Green at Work 21
Making the business case an investment for the future, not just a cost, will
benefit in a number of ways.
The Carbon Trust estimates that most businesses
could easily save 20 per cent of their energy costs Increasing energy efficiency will impact positively on
through simple, low-cost measures. There are energy costs, consumables, waste management and
many persuasive arguments you can use when disposal, water bills, hardware, and transport bills.
negotiating for environmental changes at work. The
Understanding the issues section gives tips on The DTI has recently found a “strong and significant
specific areas, like heating, waste or transport. relationship between energy efficiency and labour
productivity”. The most economically productive
When you go to meet management it is important firms are also those that are most energy efficient.
that you are well prepared. See Research on
p72 if you want help finding out more about the Increase sales
environmental issues affecting your employer.
Customers, other businesses in the supply chain,
and government all prefer companies with a clean,
Benefits to employers green record.
Employers who recognise that improving their
The top priority for companies over the next
energy efficiency and environmental impact is
few years should be the environment (Annual
Mori poll of public attitudes to Corporate Social
At the British Museum, PCS, Prospect, T&G Responsibility, October 2006).
and FDA started a GreenWorkplace project
through a staff survey and by holding a joint Reduce insurance premiums
union/management environment day that
In sensitive sectors, such as the chemical and
was attended by a quarter of the workforce,
pharmaceutical industries, insurance companies
from curators to cleaning staff. The Carbon
Trust expert who attended commented that now require environmental audits to be carried out
this compared favourably with management- before they will provide insurance cover. This trend is
only events, which normally attracted 5–10 spreading to other parts of industry as environmental
per cent of the organisation. The survey pressures, including the threat of legal action, intensify.
identified staff who were interested in training
as UGRs; 80 applied, and the first 20 have Attract green investment
already been trained by the TUC. As a result, Increasing numbers of investors invest only in
reps have carried out energy walk-rounds businesses that have environmentally responsible
in their areas and management has set up a
policies, whether for purely ethical reasons, or for
Joint Environment Committee with reps. The
financial reasons. Fund managers are coming under
British Museum has already made progress in
increasing pressure from lobby groups and the
cutting its carbon footprint with a 7 per cent
people whose money they manage.
reduction in the cost of electricity bills and
a commitment to making a new wing of the Almost 80 per cent of the FTSE 100 companies
building carbon neutral. have identified climate change as a business risk,
according to the CarbonNeutral Company.
22 Taking action – The business case for action
Attract government subsidies and Regulatory Reform (BERR) website for details –
reduce taxes paid www.berr.gov.uk/energy/sources/renewables
• Schemes do change and new ones are constantly
Taxes being added. Check the Carbon Trust and BERR
Workplaces that reduce their environmental impact website for all the latest information.
can save tax in a variety of ways. These taxes are Employers can get advice on energy saving and find
designed to incentivise improvements by accounting out about various local, national and international
for the ‘external’ costs to the environment of certain funds that might be available to their particular
activities. The main ones are: sector by contacting the three main relevant
• the Climate Change Levy, a tax on non- government agencies, the Carbon Trust (energy),
domestic energy users; there is a variety of Envirowise (waste and water), and the Energy
exemptions based on industries adopting Saving Trust (transport).
good environmental practice, and revenue is
also returned through lower national Emissions trading
insurance contributions and support from
Heavy industrial employers can sell spare emissions
the Carbon Trust
permits if they improve energy efficiency, through
• fuel duty, vehicle excise duty, and air the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. From 2010
passenger duty emissions trading is also being extended to large
• the Landfill Tax service sector employers. (See p24 for more on
• Enhanced Capital Allowances (ECAs), which this). In the future, as permits reduce and the price
allow businesses to invest in energy and water- of carbon increases, these permits are likely to
efficient technology and write off the cost operate more like a tax – in 2007 the Stern Review
against taxable profits – see www.eca.gov.net estimated the true cost of the environmental
damage of a tonne of carbon $85, though current
Subsidies and grants carbon prices are considerably lower than this.
There is a range of incentives available for
organisations interested in installing energy-efficient
equipment, buying renewable energy generation Well-established voluntary accreditation schemes
(including combined heat and power – CHP), and like EMAS, ISO14001 and EEAS can help a company
other environmental measures. These include: demonstrate its environmental commitments.
• Small and medium-sized enterprises (under 250 There are also awards and prizes for organisations
employees) may also be eligible for an interest- that go the extra mile on environmental issues. See
free energy efficiency loan of between £5,000 p27 for more on accreditation.
and £100,000, repayable over a period of up
to four years. See www.carbontrust.co.uk for Improve staff retention, morale and
more details. productivity
• If you work in the public or voluntary sector, A feel-good factor in the workplace and a more
your organisation might also be eligible for comfortable working environment that staff have
funding from the “partnership for renewables” some control over will attract employees.
and grants of up to £1 million from the
Government’s Low Carbon Buildings Scheme. Employees want to work for clean, safe, caring and
See the Department for Business, Enterprise and innovative companies, and potential recruits are
Go Green at Work 23
starting to question companies’ environmental But in order to do this it is vital that workers on
performance. the ground are involved. After all, staff will not be
able to deliver changes if they don’t understand,
Improve the value of the workplace and support, the reasons why they are being
building introduced. Opportunities will be missed if staff
More than 75 per cent of respondents to a recent don’t have a chance to influence decisions.
survey said they were willing to pay more to occupy
Trade union reps’ involvement is also critical to
premises that were environmentally friendly.
improving environmental performance.
Comply with legislation and prepare
The TUC’s GreenWorkplaces projects show that
for new laws UGRs can be important allies in promoting the
European law lays down a framework of regulations importance of energy saving and environmental
that affect business, based on the principles that: issues. They, and other trade union reps, are ideally
• preventative action should be taken placed to use the standing and structures of the
• environmental problems should be corrected at trade unions to directly influence and develop the
their source. thinking and actions of their members, and others,
• the polluter should pay for environmental damage. in respect to environmental matters. UGRs will
have the confidence of their membership and the
EU Directives and Regulations cover water quality, union involvement will give added reassurance to
waste disposal, industrial air pollution, vehicle employees. UGRs are trained in their role and are
emissions, pollution from large combustion plants, a source of useful in-house advice for employers.
environmental impact, access to environmental
For this reason, employers have generally been
information, liability for damage caused by waste,
supportive of the work of UGRs.
environmental audits, and landfill waste.
In the UK these measures are enshrined in the
Environmental Protection Act 1990 and a variety of
“The involvement of the TUC,
other laws – 751 laws and growing, according to the working with our employee
Environment Agency in 2007!
representatives, is playing a
significant part in helping to
See Business in the Community’s website
raise staff awareness and good
for more help with making the business case energy management.”
Director of Environment, Corus
Making the case for trade
There is clear evidence from the Carbon Trust
that most businesses could save a fifth or more
of their energy bills through low-cost measures.
24 Taking action – The case for trade union involvement
employees; staff awareness and energy training
Case study: Friends of initiatives; and – in those cases where a trade union
the Earth is recognised for collective bargaining purposes
– taking forward energy and environment issues
Unite/Amicus reps at Friends Provident have within the scope of such agreements.”
been developing energy-saving initiatives
through the Joint Negotiating Committee, Using health and safety arguments
including changing the IT systems so that
Some environmental issues are covered by health
computers and monitors no longer need to be
left on at night (which alone is projected to and safety law in the UK, though not as extensively
save 184 tonnes of CO2 a year). Management as they could be. The main legislation is the Health
agreed an on-site training course for 20 and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HASAW), which
green reps. These reps have gone on to set up imposes a duty of care on employers to protect
Green Teams in their departments. Reps ran workers and members of the public. As noted earlier,
an energy roadshow, attended by over 300 the HASAW, and regulations under it, also give
members of staff. Reps were delighted at the accredited union health and safety reps the right
response, stating it was “the most interest to be consulted through joint health and safety
we’ve ever had for a union committees or similar arrangements, and to inspect
stall”, with staff “queuing workplaces for breaches of health and safety.
five-deep through the
lunch hour”. Other health and safety law explicitly touches
on workplace environmental issues that have an
impact on the wider world, including:
• the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare)
Regulations 1992, which deal with working
environment issues including ventilation and
In the run-up to 2010, there will be an extra incentive temperature
for employers to work with unions to ‘go green’. From • the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health
2010 about 5,000 large public and private sector Regulations 2002 (COSHH), which governs
organisations, mostly in the service sector (including the prevention and control of chemicals,
supermarkets, government departments and large carcinogens, biological agents, and dusts.
local authorities) will be brought into emissions
trading, through the Carbon Reduction Commitment Another reason to ensure the environmental and
(CRC). The government has recognised the role of health and safety roles work together is that they
environmental reps in making the CRC work, stating: tend to be closely aligned on the management side,
with the facilities management team (possibly with
“Government wishes to emphasise the importance a separate energy manager in a large organisation)
of employee engagement and training as a core often having day-to-day operational responsibility
part of a robust carbon management and reduction for health and safety. Engaging these people in a
strategy. Government recognises that leading Joint Environment Committee is key.
organisations support and enable staff to actively
contribute to energy management through a As stated, you should be clear that current legal
variety of approaches. Such approaches include, for protection for health and safety extends to
example, joint environmental committees involving environmental considerations only in limited ways.
Go Green at Work 25
Nonetheless, some of the following ideas may be of • Low carbon options are active options – for
interest to you if you want to make the links: example, encouraging colleagues to cycle and
• Greater autonomy, less stress – having more walk to work where possible. Or policies that
control over workplace environment is proven encourage people to get up and move around
to reduce stress, and improve comfort. When to talk to colleagues, take regular breaks and
combined with education about climate change proper lunch breaks, and to turn off monitors,
and energy, greater control can also result lights and other equipment while they do – giving
in significant reductions in energy use. Low themselves and the equipment a break.
levels of user control over heating, ventilation • Environmentally friendly food tends to mean
and lighting are thought to contribute to ‘sick healthier food, and vice versa. In other words, fresh
building syndrome’ (SBS), as is little daylight, – even organic – food, rather than highly processed
poor air quality, and excess heat. and/or packaged food or food that has been sitting
• Improved air quality – promoting natural in refrigeration, transport or storage for a long time.
ventilation and reducing toxic load, including use of
Employers will need to work with staff to adapt
chemicals, will improve air quality in workplaces.
to climate change, as well as to prevent it getting
Minimising air pollution from industrial processes
worse. Hotter weather, especially increased
and carbon-based transport will generally also
summer heatwaves, means new challenges. Ways
result in reduced CO2 and other greenhouse gas
of adapting to this could include the negotiation
emissions as well as benefiting communities living
of more flexible dress codes, worker involvement
nearby, including workers themselves.
in the design of workspaces, better protection for
• Workplaces that maximise the use of natural outdoor workers and drivers and more flexible
light are more pleasant places to work. Current working time policies.
health and safety legislation calls for maximum
daylight “as far as reasonably practicable”. For an analysis of the longer-term health issues that
• Daytime working is better for people’s health will be caused by climate change (including rising
and safety and results in less energy use for temperatures, changed rainfall, and more extreme
lighting and also heating. For example, in the US weather) see the 2008 report ‘Health Effects of
the cleaners, union in a northern city negotiated Climate Change in the UK’ by the Department
for buildings to be cleaned in the daytime, for Health. Worrying predictions include increase
resulting in more social, healthier working in infectious diseases, food hygiene issues, poor-
hours for the cleaners without loss of pay, and a quality drinking water, heat exhaustion, stress, sleep
reduced energy bill at night. problems and mental health problems. These issues
will have an impact on all workers, a dual impact
• Uncomfortably hot workplaces can be caused,
on workers who deal with members of the public,
or worsened, by inefficient equipment, or simply
and a triple impact on workers in the health and
equipment (including lighting) that is left on
emergency services and other related services.
when it doesn’t need to be. The wasted energy
takes the form of excess heat. The Display Screen
Equipment Regulations require that “equipment
belonging to any workstations shall not produce
excess heat which could cause discomfort to
operators or users”. For more on heat and health
and safety at work see p21 and also the TUC
factsheet Temperature At Work – Heat.
26 Taking action – Communication
Communication Doom-laden imagery and descriptions of worst-
case scenarios about climate change may just make
people feel hopeless and push them into denial
Introduction and despair. Focusing on what could happen if we
do take action, and on saving things that people
We all look to others for action (the ‘I will if you care about could be more effective – for example,
will’ ethos), but messages from the organisation images of people and of natural beauty rather than
about what it is doing to tackle energy efficiency melting icebergs and drowning polar bears.
often become wallpaper. If staff hear a message
Workers want facts and targets they can
from the union, they may pay more attention.
understand, that focus on a particular area, that
can be updated, and that are personally meaningful
Key actions and tangible. For example, UGRs at the British
Museum explained that the workplace produced 10
Communication needs to be two-way, through
times more CO2 than all their homes and personal
reps, meetings, events, committees, surveys and
lives put together, and set a target to reduce this by
newsletters. Several of the GreenWorkplaces
10 per cent. At the TUC, green reps got figures on
project reps have set up regular e-newsletters, and
night-time electricity consumption in their building
we have encouraged all reps to use a survey to
and, through publicising these figures, halved night-
establish colleagues’ concerns.
time consumption over 18 months.
Make sure that members and non-members alike
See www.sustainableworkplace.co.uk for a
are aware of your successes, and of the role the
selection of template posters, newsletters and
union has played in greening the workplace. Union-
other presentation material you may like to adapt
led initiatives around the environment and climate
or use as they are that have been developed by the
change add value to the union card and are a great
Carbon Trust/TUC GreenWorkplaces project.
showcase for the positive work that unions do. So
publicise what you do: COIN (the Climate Outreach Information Network)
• give union environmental work a high profile runs excellent training on how to talk to people
through posters, noticeboards and newsletters about climate change and is also working with Ruskin
• use your union’s logo on all environmental College to provide training for trade union members.
materials www.coinet.org.uk. Its courses are inexpensive and
your branch may be able to help with costs.
• make sure communication with membership
is two-way, for example using surveys based
on checklists in the Understanding the issues Expressing energy use
section to establish colleagues concerns. (See p17
Are you going to express energy use/savings in
for advice on this, and p17 for a sample survey).
terms of KWh, tonnes of CO2, balloonfuls of CO2,
numbers of cups of tea, numbers of medium sized
Designing communications power stations, or simply in cash? Using cash
is probably the most easily understandable to
An important rule is that no one should be made
everyone, and some will be motivated by the idea
to feel guilty; the focus should be on removing
of saving the organisation money, or will make the
barriers to green behaviour.
connection with protecting their own jobs.