2015 could be a crunch year in the fight against global warming. One of the most effective ways you can play a part is to start (or get behind existing efforts) to ‘green your workplace’. This year, there’s renewed hope that the world’s economic powerhouses – the EU, US and China – might be able to get behind a binding global agreement to halt runaway climate change at the UN climate conference in Paris in December. While we keep our fingers crossed on that, many of us have a golden opportunity to make a meaningful contribution right now and much closer to home – or more specifically, ‘at work’. Did you know:
- offices, factories, schools and hospitals account for more than a fifth of Britain’s carbon emissions;
- our businesses and organisations produce 93% of all the UK’s waste; and
- UK workplaces are missing out on more than £300 million a year in energy efficiency savings.
With such huge carbon savings to be made and corporate energy efficiency policy in the UK failing so dramatically, the government is really missing a trick. That’s why the TUC is calling for more support for workers, unions and employers working together to green their workplaces.
Everyone’s a winner
As a voice for the rights and needs of workers, unions have long placed a great value on greener workplaces. This is because:
- energy efficient businesses spend less so should be more profitable, and thus able to offer their workers better working conditions and job security;
- environmental improvements tend to create healthier, safer and more pleasant working spaces; and
- greener transport arrangements can give staff cheaper and more flexible travel options.
The TUC believes in a "Just Transition" to a green economy that will create millions of environmentally-friendly jobs around the world. It'll be a huge shift in the way our economy works and we need to ensure it happens fairly for everyone. The business benefits to employers are equally attractive, including: reduced overheads; improved brand and reputation to attract talented employees and loyal customers; better morale (and performance) among staff; green tax breaks; and cheaper, easier adaptation to future environmental regulations.
There are plenty of things you can do to reduce your own environmental footprint at work and persuade your colleagues to do the same. If you want to take it a step further, business-wide change will need buy-in from the whole organisation, and that’s where, if you have one, your union environmental rep comes in. They play a pivotal negotiating role in many workplaces: they are trained to represent staff input and ideas to management while making staff aware of changes to workplace practices and encouraging behavioural change – often with striking results, as demonstrated in the ‘Union Effect’ report. So ask them what’s being done already and how you can get involved! The problem of climate change may seem overwhelming, but since our office and factories have such high carbon emissions, building greener workplaces is a natural place to start doing something about it. And experience tells us that where workers, unions and employers get behind this common cause together, working life can be permanently changed for the better.
- More information on greening your workplace
- Green Workplace success stories: read the Union Effect report