Thursday, 5 April 2007

Employers slow to green their workplaces
Labour Research Press Release March 4th 2007

Employers are proving slow off the mark in "greening" their workplaces, despite the fact that over half the UK’s energy is directly used in the workplace, according to a new survey by the Labour Research Department (LRD).

But it also shows that environmentally committed workplace reps are proving that, where management works with them, green progress can be made.

The report, published in the LRD’s journal Workplace Report, surveyed union reps from over 500 workplaces, three-quarters of whom were in the public sector. Fewer than one quarter of the reps (23%) said their workplace had a clear system of environmental management.

In addition, the survey found that:

• fewer than one fifth of employers (19%) have comprehensive recycling schemes in place;
• only one in nine (11%) has a comprehensive energy efficiency scheme;
• almost two-thirds (63%) of employers have done nothing to promote green transport
• more than half have taken no action on water conservation (57%);
• 51% have done nothing on green purchasing;
• 34% have taken no action on minimising waste;
• 34% have done nothing to minimise the use of resources.

Although the workplaces involved had union reps present, very few of the employers had involved the union in green issues at work.

Even where there was an environmental management system, only 10% of reps said the union had any involvement with it. And fewer than a third of the reps overall said the union had been involved in environmental improvement measures in their workplace.

However, where management does work with the growing army of union reps who are enthusiastic about greening the workplace, it is clear that progress can be made. The survey revealed many examples of good practice, including those below (more details available from LRD).

The survey provides further evidence of the need for statutory rights for trade union environment reps, as advocated by the TUC.

Waste and recycling

A rep from University College London said the college had "direct recycling streams for paper and for bottle glass, although the potential for other streams is constantly under review…Batteries are removed from the hazardous waste stream and sent for recycling, and fluorescent tubes are processed to recycle the mercury content."

Reducing consumption

Toilets use huge quantities of water so the Met Office uses rainwater to flush its toilets. In addition, a number of efforts to reduce energy consumption were reported by reps including a plan at the Port of Tilbury to install three 90-metre wind turbines.


The UNISON branch environment officer at the University of Brighton has negotiated secure cycle storage on all four sites and an interest-free cycle loan to include helmets and locks, while at the Pensions Service the PCS has negotiated the installation of a shower for those cycling to work.

Notes to editors
1 The survey on union reps, the workplace and the environment was based on an online questionnaire to union reps, distributed by national unions and through the LRD website. Over 500 reps responded, of whom 76% were from the public sector and 55% worked in offices.

2 Further details on the results, together with case studies, are contained in an article in the latest issue of Workplace Report, published by the Labour Research Department. The Labour Research Department, an independent trade union and labour movement organisation founded over 90 years ago. More than 1,800 trade union organisations, including 55 national unions representing 99% of total TUC membership, are affiliated.

For further information contact Paul Hampton on 020 7902 9826 or; or 07984 356110 out of office hours.

Labour Research Department press releases are also available on the LRD website:

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