Issue date
Prospect reps at the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) in Newport, South Wales, have been helping the workforce have their say over changes to make the workplace more sustainable.
Prospect reps help workers at the IPO ‘climate-proof’ their workplace

Prospect reps Becky Lander and Conal Clynch are members of the IPOs new ‘Green Team’. This reflects the importance of environmental issues for Prospect members. In fact, a survey of members in January 2020 found that the climate emergency was the second biggest concern for members (after pay).

The union role in sustainability

Becky is a workplace rep and a specialist trade union environmental rep at the branch. She explains: “The IPO has an environmental suggestions group on Yammer which comes up with lots of ideas. Interest really picked up around the time of the school climate strikes last year.

“Conal helped organise a climate crisis awareness raising event in our office reception around this time and that helped to kick off discussion and further interest. I represented Prospect at the event and afterwards was asked to be involved in a staff ‘Green Team’ that was being set up by the IPO Environmental Team.”

“The aim of the Green Team is to bring together a core group of people from across the office to work with the Environmental Team to look at the environment and sustainability side of things. It acts as a link to the rest of the workplace and comes up with ideas and options.

“Being able to provide union representation within the team is really useful, and it makes sense with our links to members and understanding of the issues that concern them."

Making the case with management

“I’m new to the role of environmental rep and found it helpful to have the survey results and the positive feedback from the climate crisis event to highlight to managers that Prospect members are passionate about this issue and have lots of ideas. It showed that they want to have a say in how we make the workplace more sustainable. Earlier this year I was also able to complete Prospect’s sustainable workplace training to help me with my role.”

Conal says: “The IPO trade unions wrote a letter to the CEO last October to explain the level of interest from union members. It also stressed the importance of working jointly on these issues. We had a really positive response.”

Working jointly to overcome barriers

Becky explains: “The management have been proactive. We’ve already seen positive changes with action to reduce single use plastics and on-site composting. They've also introduced wild areas to support biodiversity and charging facilities for electric vehicles.”

“But we want to do more, and now the union has another mechanism to feed into what is being planned, it means we can put forward members’ ideas and work jointly to help overcome barriers.”

IPO sustainability manager Lesley Evans says: “We see working with key stakeholders as an essential part of our environmental management system. We are extremely lucky that the trade unions at IPO are so passionate about environmental matters and are keen to work with us. The Green Team is a relatively new group but has already touched on some important issues and I look forward to us achieving even more together in future.”

Homeworking and work-related travel

The reps are now working with their members and the Green Team, to look at a range of new initiatives.

Conal explains: “Pre-Covid, members have identified work-related travel as a key issue. But at the moment we’re all working from home, and no-one is travelling.”

“How much will we need to travel for work in the future?  People have seen that video conferencing can work. So that might help to balance some of our environmental impacts, especially for longer distance travel to conferences.”

“We want to make sure that members’ concerns and wellbeing needs are considered in any longer-term changes with travel and homeworking. We are also trying to better understand the energy and emissions equation of homeworking. It’s something we’re working on now before any potential return to the workplace.”

Creative ideas for a carbon neutral workplace

The reps are also exploring options for offsetting with carbon capture and storage (CCS). And there are ideas for energy generation and initiatives to support pollinators.

Becky says: “The members have some really creative ideas on how to improve sustainability. Having the union represented on the ‘Green Team’ means that we can feed in their views. It means we can identify any issues, so that new initiatives are much more likely to have wider buy-in from the workforce.

“Both the members and the management really want to work together to see the IPO become a carbon neutral workplace.”

Becky is now also helping with the union’s wider work on environment and sustainability, having recently been appointed to the Prospect NEC Advisory Sub-Committee for Science, Engineering and Sustainability (SESAC). As part of her new role she is looking forward to being involved in the development and reporting of the union’s work on sustainability and environment for the its National Executive Committee.

Are you interested in improving sustainability in your workplace?

There are lots of ways that you can get involved in trade union environmental campaigns. You could even become an environmental or ‘green’ rep yourself. Training and support is available.

Speak to your union to find out more and visit for details of Wales TUC courses and resources.