Champions for Change Conference - South West TUC Green Workplaces Project
Trade union reps from across the South West gained recognition for their dedication in greening their own workplaces at the Champions for Change Conference held in Bristol in November 2010. The event, organised by the TUC South West GreenWorkplace Project, provided an opportunity to consider the challenges for union members wanting to green their workplace whilst at the same time celebrating examples where union reps and members have been influential in effecting environmental improvements at work.
Nigel Costley, Regional Secretary of the South West TUC, opened the conference and told delegates that the work of the Green Workplaces Project had been important in developing green workplace initiatives and that 'working with workers makes the action contagious!'
Awards were given to the following South West Green Workplaces Champions for Change:
Sally Childs, UNISON rep from NHS Dorset in Dorchester, who organised Green Office Week activities which raised awareness of environmental issues and how individuals and offices can make a real difference ; Steve Crawshaw UNISON rep at Bristol City Council, who champions green issues and coordinates and organises the green reps from all the recognised trades unions working for the city council. Steve has steered through a green rep agreement guaranteeing facility time, training, and a proper negotiating structure on environmental issues ; Pierre Fox, UNISON rep at Avon & Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership in Bristol, who has been instrumental in setting up the Bristol Vocation Service as a 'zero petrol team', carrying out 100% of their business travel by electric pool car or bike; Phil Hammant, Unite learning rep, for his leading work at J and S Marine in Barnstaple, where the Unite Learning Centre has been crucial to the retraining of the workforce as it moves from naval defence contracts to the production of sustainable technologies ; Kevin Maggs, a GMB learning rep, at A&P Group, Falmouth, who has been instrumental in agreeing a programme of training for the workforce on staff engagement in workplace energy saving projects ; Martin Roberts, BECTU learning organizer, who has led training sessions for theatre technicians, managers and freelancers to show how low energy systems can be deployed at performance venues. Martin has saved the Princess Theatre in Torquay nearly £1000 every year in reduced energy costs. Wayne Walters, PCS green rep at HM Prison Guys Marsh near Shaftesbury, who has established a project to turn food waste at the prison into energy via an anaerobic digestion plant converting food waste into electricity and saving the prison service approximately £18,000 every year. To find out more about some of these projects and others like them download www.tuc.org.uk/extras/greener_deals.pdf
From left to right, top row: Wayne Walters, PCS (HMP Guys Marsh); Martin Roberts, BECTU (Torquay Princess Theatre); Phil Hammant, Unite (J&S Marine); Beth Callinan and Nigel Costelly (South West TUC); TUC DGS Frances O'Grady; Sally Childs UNISON (NHS Dorset); Frances Robertson (South West TUC) . Bottom row: Keith Hatch (South West TUC); Paul Pierre Fox, UNISON (AWP Mental Health Partnership) Pete Fryer, UNISON on behalf of Steve Crawshaw, UNISON (Bristol City Council) Haydn Young (Gaia) and Gary Palmer of GMB on behalf of Kevin Maggs, GMB (A&P Marine).
Other events during the day included an impressive line up of speakers with TUC Deputy General Secretary Frances O'Grady, Jonathon Porritt, Founder Director of Sustainability NGO Forum for the Future and Haydn Young from the GAIA Behaviour Change Programme addressing the conference.
All the speakers focused on the challenges that changing behaviour to achieve a greener workplace can pose. They recognised that the trade unions are well placed to make the connections that are needed to make the change and achieve carbon reduction across the board. Haydn Young saw trade union reps as vital 'connectors' because they are respected, passionate and are important because of the influence that they have. Jonathon Porritt told the conference that making connections between climate change and our actions was difficult but important and the links that trade unions were now making with environmentalists and with communities was 'at the heart of green'. Frances O'Grady saw the future as being with a Citizen's Coalition. She said 'rather than cutting jobs and services, what we need to do is cut carbon' and saw the need to bring together 'the biggest broadest coalition of people'. Not just the public and private sector workers but also service users, community groups and environmental groups to form this alternative coalition and that a just transition to a low carbon economy was at the heart of this.
Frances O'Grady paid tribute to the South West TUC's Green Workplaces Project for being able to show in practical terms how you can cut carbon in workplaces and work with employers. She told the unions reps at the conference, 'You are doing fantastic work to move towards a fairer, greener economy and justice for all'.
The event was also an opportunity to get active and share best practice with workshops on the following topics: Travel planning for an organisation; How to promote behaviour change in the workplace; Improving resource efficiency in a business; and Effective communication and negotiation at work. Feedback from the conference welcomed the strong practical focus, one participant commented that 'With all the gloom over spending cuts, it was good to attend such an upbeat event'.
More information about the green work these Champions have been doing and copies of presentations and speeches at the conference can be found at: www.greenworkplacessouthwest.org.uk or contact the South West Green Workplaces Team at [email protected]
Green week at PCS
PCS held a 'Green Week' in early December. The week, organised jointly by PCS management and the staff union (GMB@ PCS branch), saw a series of lunchtime events. These included the signing of a joint environment and climate change agreement, the launch of a new recycling system and food composting scheme, talks on carbon footprinting and sustainable transport and a presentation on the history of trade unions and the environment.
The highlight of the week was the signing of the joint agreement (based on the TUC's model agreement), by PCS assistant general secretary Chris Baugh and GMB branch president Bob Barron. A joint environment committee (JEC) was set up some time ago and discussions are underway to agree a training programme for GMB green reps.
The new recycling scheme will see PCS' stationery suppliers Wiles Greenworld collecting and recycling waste at the same time as they do stationery deliveries. Speaking at the event sustainable development director Toby Robins described this was a 'new model' for the industry.
PCS will also be using the East London Community Recycling Partnership to collect and recycle food waste from PCS HQ which will be returned as compost. A pilot has been running for several months and has proved very successful. PCS facilities management estimate that the new recycling scheme will save over £3,000 in the first year.
Consultants from the Low Carbon Innovation Centre (LCIC) at the University of East Anglia gave a talk on their work helping organisations to measure and reduce their carbon footprint. LCIC carries out research on low carbon innovation as well as consultancy work with organisations They said a mixture of practices was often needed including awareness raising and behavioural change as well as technological solutions and that it was important to do the simple things first. (see www.lcic.com/ for more info).
A speaker from transport charity Sustrans spoke about the work of the organisation and said that encouraging people to make more journeys by foot, by bike or public transport is about improving health and quality of life as well as the environment. www.sustrans.org.uk
A staff travel questionnaire was also launched.
John Medhurst from the PCS research department gave a very interesting talk on trade unions and the environment titled 'An ecological heart and an egalitarian body' which traced the history of unions' activity on the environment back to William Morris and the Bryant and May Match Girls strike in 1888.
PCS energy suppliers, Good Energy (100% renewable) had a stall at HQ during the week. PCS recently agreed a discount scheme for members who sign up with Good Energy (£50 off first bill). See www.goodenergy.co.uk
PCS is committed to improving its environmental performance through annual environmental action plans, joint audits, reducing consumption and the organisation's carbon footprint as well as promoting ethical and green policies. The network of [email protected] green reps is looking forward to continuing to work with PCS on this important agenda.
For a copy of the TUC's model joint environment and climate change agreement see page 74 at: www.tuc.org.uk/extras/gogreenatwork.pdf
Cancun agreement includes Just Transition and Human Rights principles
'Promoting a just transition of the workforce, the creation of decent work and quality jobs in accordance with nationally defined development priorities and strategies.'
'[Governments] should, in all climate change-related actions, fully respect human rights'.
Cheering in the Cancun conference hall in the small hours of Saturday 11 December 2010, not least from the ITUC's union delegation, as the UN reached an agreement on climate change. Building blocks of this elusive agreement include committing major economies to CO2 cuts consistent with the latest science; holding global average temperature rises to below 2 degrees; a Green Climate Fund for developing countries with up to $30bn of Fast Start funding for the period 2010 to 2012, and £100bn annually by 2020; and action on deforestation.
The UN deal includes union demands on decent work, a Just Transition to a low carbon future, and human rights - measures seen as vital to balancing the market-led approach to much UN policy.
But Governments could not reach an agreement to a specific CO2 target for 2020. The phrase 'reducing their aggregate emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases' to a level consistent with the science, must imply cuts of between 25% and 40% by 2020. Current CO2 pledges from governments total up to 16%, well short of that aggregate figure. This still points to temperatures rises of double the UN's ceiling.
A diplomatic road crash was avoided. To say that the climate will be much safer is a different matter. This agreement is not binding: it says so: 'nothing in this decision shall prejudge prospects for, or the content of, a legally-binding outcome in the future'. So, welcoming the agreement, ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow called on Governments to 'raise their sights by the time of next meeting in Durban in a year's time.' It's going to be a tough year leading to the UN's supposed final conference in Durban in December 2012. That's when the binding commitments of the Kyoto Protocol expire, and when new CO2 commitments must kick in.
For trade unions, the UN's Shared Vision for long-term co-operative action recognises the importance of 'promoting a just transition of the workforce, the creation of decent work and quality jobs in accordance with nationally defined development priorities and strategies and contributing to building new capacity for both production and service-related jobs in all sectors, promoting economic growth and sustainable development.' Strong text, too, on stakeholder engagement. Music to our ears. After two weeks of intense, round-the-clock lobbying of governments in Cancun, our emails whizzing round the globe this weekend spoke of joy and solidarity.
The UN is effectively helping to create what in union terms is a procedural agreement, with just transition providing a place at the table for trade unions, involving the principles of consultation, green jobs, green skills and respect for labour and human rights.
This is why we are welcomed, too, the enhanced references to human rights in this Shared Vision:
'[Governments] should, in all climate change-related actions, fully respect human rights'. Referring to resolution 10/4 of the United Nations Human Rights Council on human rights and climate change, the Cancun agreement recognizes that 'the adverse effects of climate change have a range of direct and indirect implications for the effective enjoyment of human rights and that the effects of climate change will be felt most acutely by those segments of the population that are already vulnerable owing to geography, gender, age, indigenous or minority status and disability.'
On BBC Radio 4 on Saturday morning, 10 December 2010, Environment Secretary Chris Huhne said the deal would underpin the government's efforts to create green jobs and growth, and boost the EU's case to increase its ambitions to a 30% cut in CO2 by 2020. For the TUC, the agreement also brings home the case for a new national dialogue between unions, government, industry and other stakeholders. The government is apparently drawing up a Green Economy Road Map for mid-2011. Time for a Green Economy Council, too?
UK business wastes energy £billions
UK businesses are wasting billions of pounds every year. These are the findings from a Carbon Trust report published this month. The report, The Business of Energy Efficiency,
by the Carbon Trust's Advisory Service says that finance directors in large businesses are undervaluing the financial returns from energy saving by over a half. Energy saving measures, such as upgrades to heating and lighting, energy policies and staff training could be saving businesses at least £1.6bn every year. I'll just repeat that last bit, it's important ......every year. Energy efficiency may not be sexy, but with projected increases in energy prices can big business really continue to overlook such substantial savings? After all, energy efficiency is where the jobs are.
Energy projects deliver, on average, a return on investment of 48%, four times the minimum level demanded by most senior finance officers and have a pay back of less than three years. According to the report, that satisfies the investment requirements of eight out of ten finance directors.
Of course none of this is news to the TUC GreenWorkplaces projects around the UK where businesses and organisations are working in partnership with trade unions to improve energy efficiency and reduce the environmental impact of the workplace. Our joint publication with the then BERR and the CBI from last year highlights one such greenworkplace, the British Museum, where our union green reps have helped make substantial financial savings. http://www.bis.gov.uk/files/file51155.pdf
Some employers are waking up to the benefits to be had from working with the recognised unions in their workplaces to ensure that financial savings from resource and energy efficiency ease the pressure on other costs and saves jobs.
But, if these findings from the Carbon Trust are anything to go by we need a UK wide network of GreenWorkplaces that can have a national impact on energy costs and carbon emissions. Our projects have shown that union involvement can lead to business benefits through improved environmental performance. How much longer do we have to keep screaming this from the rooftops before business sits up and takes notice and government gives our union green reps statutory time off to help employers engage with their staff and make a success of their green projects.
Meanwhile, the government is proposing to exempt nearly 12,000 information declarers from the much maligned Carbon Reduction Energy Efficiency Scheme. Under the scheme's current rules, in addition to the 3000 businesses fully participating in the CRC, around 11,500 UK organisations and businesses have registered to make an information disclosure under the scheme. It seems that smaller businesses and organisations may also be given the go ahead to continue overlooking the savings that can be made from basic energy management.
It was only last year that President Obama took a ribbing at home for proclaiming that energy efficiency was sexy. His words were 'Here's what's sexy about it - saving money'. It's hard to disagree.
The South West TUC GreenWorkplaces Project hold a host of spring events
The South West TUC are holding a host of events in the New Year - many back by popular demand. Do not miss out on the chance to attend these before the project closes at the end of March.
For information on all these events/workshops, run by the South West Green Workplaces Project, visit:
Free Half day Workshops in the South West - back by popular demand
Bristol 8th February, UNISON Offices Vintry House Bristol
Swindon 10th February, STEAM The Great Western Railway Museum, Swindon
9:30 - 13:30 (Including Lunch)
At a time when climate change is a growing concern and workplaces are under increasing financial constraints these sessions will offer practical solutions that can really make a difference to your workplace. The South West TUCs Green Workplaces Project has been working with trade unions members and employers for the last two years to promote employee engagement as a way to 'green' the workplace.
These workshops will be lead by Keith Wheaton-Green, an environmental consultant and Climate Change Officer at South Somerset District Council. Keith has been working on renewable energy projects and ways to engage employees on workplace energy saving for a number of years and will share his knowledge and practical experience. The workshops will be a mix of presentations, group work and advice.
All attendees will receive information to take away with them about different low energy systems available and gain an understanding of the host of reasons for reducing your carbon footprint at home and at work.
What will it cover?
- Information about the GWP project and support available.
- Ideas for involving and inspiring colleagues to reduce energy bills by 10%-20%
- Carbon reduction projects and their financial and carbon emissions quantification
- Voltage optimisation to reduce electricity use
- Renewable energy installations at business premises
- The Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme
To register visit:
or email Beth Callinan on [email protected]
Money down the drain? Water saving event - Wessex Water Operations Centre, Bath - 27 January 2011
Water is often overlooked when looking at cost savings and environmental impacts at work. The South West Green Workplace Project are hosting an event in partnership with Wessex Water on workplace water efficiency. Wessex Water will present about the real cost of workplace water use and how saving waster can save your organisation money and improve environmental performance; Manufacturing Advisory Services will present case studies; WRAP will provide information on the 'Ripple Effect', and you can find out more about water audits.
Sustainable business experts Envirowise announced this year that UK businesses are collectively missing out on combined cost savings of as much as £10 million per day by failing to maximise the potential of water efficiency (GreenWorkplaces Newsletter, July 2010). Attending this event is a must!
Download the event flyer at:
Free training - take the Trade Unions and the Environment Course
Three day accredited courses for union members available at the following locations:
January 28 - Cheltenham
March 4 - Liverpool
May 10 - Wrexham
May 11 - Bristol
June 13 - Cornwall, Plymouth
June 15 - London
For more information visit:
To find out more about the TUC GreenWorkplaces Project or to join the TUC's Green Reps Network contact the project leader Sarah Pearce at [email protected] or Tel: 020 7467 1230
Issued: 22 December, 2010