Trade unions go green

The TUC is asking union members to do their bit for the environment and has published a ten-step guide as a starting place for reducing waste and energy consumption in the workplace.

While this may be a departure from the usual concerns about workers’ rights and conditions, a spokesman for the TUC told edie it was in keeping with the ethos of the organisation.

“The unions have always had broader concerns about society and the quality of people’s lives in the UK and also the rest of the world,” he said.

“There are 29 million people at work in the UK and while lots of them think about recycling and energy consumption at home, too many people switch off from those ideas when they get to work.

“It makes a difference if a handful of people take these steps but what will really make an impact is if the majority of people at work are sitting down with their employers and looking at things like waste and energy consumption and how they can reduce them.”

Those kind of negotiations and discussions were what unions are for, he added.

“Traditionally it’s been about issues like pay and health and safety but there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be using these systems that are already in place to benefit the environment,” said the spokesman.

The ten steps to a greener workplace can be found on the TUC’s sustainableworkplace website and include common-sense suggestions like turning down the thermostat rather than opening windows if it gets too hot, using the stairs rather than the lift, switching off equipment that is not in use and limiting daytime lighting in buildings with plenty of natural light.

According to the TUC’s Greening the Workplace report, published this week, UK workplaces generate over 66 million tonnes of carbon emissions each year from the energy and resources they consume, yet on average businesses waste 30% of the energy they buy.

It also argues that for many organisations, a 20% cut in energy costs is easily and cheaply achievable, and would be the same as a 5% increase in sales.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber,said: “For many people work is still a green-free zone, despite being the biggest polluter and power user in the UK.

“There are simple steps people can take to make their workplace greener but to make a real difference it’s better to get everybody on board. It may seem daunting at first but if employers, employees and unions get together problems can be solved and good practice can be spread across the whole organisation.”

Sam Bond

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