This is the first conference report we have produced on green issues. That in itself is a reflection of how important these issues have become as climate change has rapidly moved up the political agenda.
The report summarises our activities to date on three key strands of our work in this area - PCS as an employer, bargaining for greener workplaces and wider campaigning - and in making a number of recommendations for further action, recognises that there is still much we have to do.
Unions have a vital role to play - whether by campaigning, lobbying government, educating or negotiating with employers - to make workplaces greener. As a union representing those who work in government departments and agencies, we have a key role in getting government to clean up its act.
I hope you find this report useful and informative.
Chris Baugh, assistant general secretary
Our journey to becoming a 'greener' union began in 2002 following conference motions to affiliate to No Sweat - a solidarity organisation that campaigns against sweatshops - and to support Oxfam's Trade Justice Campaign by, among other things, using PCS members' power as consumers to encourage the use of fairtrade products in the workplace.
These motions led to a review of how we source merchandise/promotional items as well as the suppliers we use for office products, catering and PCS+ benefits for members. This resulted in the production of a Fair and Ethical Trade Purchasing Policy that was agreed by the NEC in 2005 and incorporates labour and environmental standards into our purchasing. We were one of the first unions to formulate such a policy.
Gradually - and logically - our focus on our own procurement practices shifted to looking outwardly at wider campaigns around fairtrade, sweatshops and ethical purchasing. We began to work with the Fairtrade Foundation - encouraging members to get involved in promoting fairtrade in their workplaces - and to work with No Sweat and Labour Behind the Label. Some of our branches were already active around these issues - we encouraged others to become active too.
As green issues moved up the political agenda and the union movement started to become more active around them, further annual delegate conference (ADC) motions followed. In 2006 there were motions on energy, renewables and climate change and then as the focus shifted to the workplace, a motion was carried in 2007 stating that each PCS branch should have an environmental rep and that we should consider building a network of green reps.
This report summarises the main strands of our work around green issues and, based on the very succesful Green Forum held in December 2007, make a series of recommendations on how we take these forward.
"Trade unionists must ensure that we are at the heart of campaigning for a sustainable society based on social justice for all"
Campaign Against Climate Change, 2007
There is now a growing awareness of environmental issues - every organisation wants to be seen to be green. There are certainly benefits for employers in terms of gaining customers and making profits as well as in recruiting staff who are increasingly keen to work for organisations with green credentials. So why are unions keen to be green? These are some of the reasons:
So there are clear links with organising and negotiating, on learning where we have a role in raising awareness and understanding of environmental issues, as well as links with our focus on equality and social justice and international issues.
""Sustainability" is not something we put in a separate box marked "green". It is a core trade union and workplace issue."
Greening the workplace, TUSDAC, June 2005
Our activities in this area have placed us at the forefront of a newly emerging focus on green issues across the union movement. We have sought to define this area of activity broadly; our characterisation of a sustainable workplace echoes that outlined by the Trade Union Sustainable Development Advisory Committee (TUSDAC) and includes enhanced terms and conditions and work environment, and consideration for the global as well as the local community - for example taking on board concerns such as ethical investment and fairtrade.
Our approach has been to build incrementally rather than setting over ambitious targets, to be holistic in our approach, and to consider how green issues impact upon us and how they can be best integrated across all our activities.
In 2006 the NEC agreed to set up a 'Greening the Workplace Task Group' under the direction of the Assistant General Secretary to co-ordinate the work and report to the National Executive on how we can take forward a green agenda.
We have sought to build alliances and find common ground with a wide range of organisations in the field of environment/sustainable development (see appendix 2).
We have identified three key strands to our work in this area:
In 2007, President Janice Godrich, General Secretary Mark Serwotka, Deputy General Secretary Hugh Lanning and Assistant General Secretary Chris Baugh signed up to the TUC's 'green leaders' initiative. This was launched at the TUC Congress 2007 and aims to promote carbon cutting as a union issue, through providing leadership by example. Those who sign up as a 'green leader' commit to ensuring the unions they lead become green organisations.
With this as with any other trade union issue we need to practice what we preach. Taking measures to make PCS HQ and our regional centres greener, more sustainable workplaces is an important indicator of our commitment to these issues. Over forty per cent of greenhouse gas emissions are generated in the workplace - so every workplace has a role to play in reducing emissions. Moreover, we believe that we cannot expect others - whether employers, the government, other organisations or our members - to take us seriously on these issues otherwise.
We are a signatory to the Mayor of London's Green Procurement Code which offers practical advice and resources to help organisations in London increase their purchasing of green products. Organisations that sign up to the Green Procurement Code commit to achieving environmental targets and enter for an award every year. We have been increasing our expenditure on green products every year since we signed up to the code in 2004 and were shortlisted for an award in 2006 and 2007.
In 2005, we launched our Fair and Ethical Trade Purchasing Policy. As well as labour standards that we expect our suppliers to comply with, the policy covers environmental standards such as waste management, recycling and energy use.
Last year we invited the Carbon Trust and Envirowise to carry out audits at our Clapham and Victoria offices to help us draw up an action plan for reducing our carbon footprint and use of raw materials.
Some of the measures we have introduced so far to make PCS a more sustainable organisation are:
Further deails of these measures are available in appendix 1.
PCS facilities management works with the staff union, GMB, which has recently appointed a (jobshare) green rep on these matters.
PCS nationally to:
"The labour movement has always been at the forefront in taking up hazards in the workplace in order to protect workers and make the working environment safe."
The environment and climate change - a guide for union reps, LRD 2007
This section looks at green bargaining issues, including the role of environmental or green reps in workplaces where we organise.
In response to ADC motion A95, we held our first Green Forum in December 2007 at the University and College Union (UCU) conference centre in London, attended by over 100 of our reps and activists.
Motion A95 carried at ADC 2007 called for conference to:
The key aims of the Green Forum were to:
The event, chaired by PCS vice-president Glenys Morris, began with a panel discussion with: John McDonnell MP; Penny Morley, chair of the Trade Union Sustainable Development Advisory Committee (TUSDAC) working group; Jonathan Neale, Campaign against Climate Change; Caroline Molloy, TUC Greenworkplaces project; and PCS activists Graham Bowers and Peter Clennell from, respectively, Defra (York) and the British Museum which participated in the TUC's greenworkplaces project 2006/07.
A wide range of issues were raised during the panel discussion from the government's failure to practice what it preaches on green issues in its own departments, facilities time for environmental reps to the potential role of Carbon Rationing Action Groups (CRAGs) in the workplace.
There were workshops on the role of the green rep and on bargaining issues. The recommendations included in this report are informed by the extremely valuable discussion in workshops and plenary sessions. The event attracted a high level of participation and many were attending a PCS event for the first time.
Nearly half (48 per cent) of the PCS activists who responded to a survey conducted by LRD in 2007 on union involvement in environmental issues were not part of the union/management bargaining agenda at their workplace.
The government's sustainable development strategy, Securing the Future (March 2005), sets out the government's approach to sustainable development - to tackle climate change, poverty and environmental degradation and enable people to satisfy their basic needs and enjoy a better quality of life without compromising the quality of life of future generations.
In support of the strategy, all government departments and executive agencies are required to produce a sustainable development action plan (SDAP). A SDAP is about integrating sustainable development considerations into a department's policies, operations and day-to-day activities. It focuses activity under four areas the government has identified for priority action:
The government has set sustainability for 2020 for its own estate, including to:
The government's own watchdog, the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) monitors departments' progress in meeting these targets. The last published report, Sustainable Development in Government 2006, finds patchy data and poor performance across most areas. For example, on key waste and carbon indicators:
The SDC report concludes that overall government departments' performance is "simply not good enough" and "unless government can quickly take charge of its own operations, it risks breeding deep cynicism amongst the general public and will lag behind the private sector".
In 2007, we carried out a small-scale survey to try to ascertain the extent to which green/sustainable development issues are on the bargaining agenda with our employers.
This suggested that few departments/agencies have these issues on their bargaining agendas and that green issues are often dealt with in a top-down manner - for example, a report is produced and there is little negotiated trade union input.
The Cabinet Office has given a commitment to both PCS and the Council of Civil Service Unions (CCSU) to talks on sustainability across the civil service. There are also discussions taking place with DEFRA to ensure it is involved.
The government's failure to meet the sustainability targets it has set for its own departments was discussed in the bargaining workshops at the forum - especially the issue of SDAPs. Specific points noted were the need to:
Other bargaining areas identified were:
PCS nationally to:
The TUC has argued as far back as 1990 that reps should have legal rights for environmental training and to carry out environmental duties such as workplace audits.
In practice, as this issue has become more pressing, unions have taken different approaches. In some unions stewards' role includes health, safety and environmental issues while in others health and safety and learning reps use their existing rights to take up environmental issues.
So far, the government has shown no sign of a commitment to give statutory rights for environment reps. In 2006/07 an early day motion (EDM) was tabled by John McDonnell MP asking that environmental reps be given the same rights as other union reps.
Across PCS groups/branches, differing patterns have emerged with some appointing environmental or sustainable development or green reps while in other areas health and safety reps, learning reps or branch officers have taken up the mantle of green issues.
At the Green Forum we held in December 2007, the first set of workshops looked at the role of the green rep. A paper produced for the event defined the role, which is summarised below.
In the workshops a wide range of views emerged about how the role should be carried out with some arguing that the role of 'green' or environmental rep should be a seperate elected position on the branch executive committee (BEC) with training and facilities attached.
Others thought that taking on board green issues should be the responsibility of all BEC members - both to reflect the fact that there is cross-over with, to cite a few key roles, health and safety, learning and organising as well as utilising the facilities time attached to these roles. It was also noted that a wide range of reps and activists had attended the forum - including branch secretaries/chairs/treasurers/organisers, health and safety and learning reps as well as green/environmental reps.
A key issue raised was whether, in the present industrial relations climate, the role of green/environmental rep is really relevant or is it a luxury 'add-on', especially while there is no facility time to carry out the role?
A counter argument was that if we don't have a clearly defined role for the green/environmental rep it is going to be hard to justify official time to carry out their duties.
PCS nationally to:
The TUC launched a three-day 'Trade Unions and the Environment' course aimed at reps and activists in 2005. The TUC has offered an online version of this course since early 2008 (from Autumn 2008 in Scotland).
PCS is currently conducting a review of our trade union education which is expected to include the following recommendations on green education that were put forward by the Greening the Workplace task group:
PCS nationally should:
We set up a green e-group - now with over 100 activists - and dedicated green workplace web pages in 2006. We have started the process of registering green activists on commix.
Communications was discussed at the Green Forum and feedback on the event also indicated that those attending felt that networking and sharing good practice were important. Some attendees said the most useful part of the day was:
"Sharing views and ideas/best practice with (other) reps"
"(Getting) a bigger picture of what's happening, networking"
"That it happened at all. Good start"
"Finding common problems across so many employees also reinforcing the role that green issues are a problem for unions to address"
Some of those attending said that similar events in the future - whether regional or national - would be useful, perhaps involving green activists from other unions. Others felt we should make better use of existing means of communication - including publications and the website - to share information and good practice and publicise our successes. Several referred to a possibility of a green reps' bulletin board/blogs on the website.
Another comment was that branches should build contacts/links outside the workplace - such as local community groups - with local FOE groups, for example.
A common theme was the need to engage with members and reps (including BEC members) to raise their awareness of green/sustainable development issues and get 'buy-in' from those who may be resistant.
PCS nationally to:
"[The TUC has] observed a rapidly increasing level of demand for involvement in social dialogue around the environment from our wider union membership".Report on Greenworkplace Project, TUC 2007
In 2006/7, the TUC obtained funding from the Carbon Trust to run six demonstration greenworkplaces projects across all industrial sectors. These aimed to:
The six demonstration projects included two workplaces where we organise - British Museum and DEFRA - as well the TUC itself, Corus, Friends Provident and Scottish Power. The projects focused on activities around energy saving and included: open days/green awareness raising events, surveys, training for green reps and support for negotiating with management.
The project evaluation report noted the following four key outcomes:
A practical outcome is the production of a useful booklet, How to 'green' your workplace. The TUC has obtained funding for a second round of greenworkplaces projects in 2007/8.
I acknowledge that climate change and environmental damage is one of the most serious problems facing our world, with far reaching consequences for individuals both at work and at home. I pledge to...
"This example, which complements work undertaken nationally by PCS on 'green' and ethical procurement, shows how unions at grass-roots level can have a role in increasing demand for 'green' products and services, which in turn potentially creates new sustainable jobs in the UK."
TUC greenworkplaces project report, 2007
Reps from the four recognised unions at the museum - PCS, Prospect, T&G and FDA set up a joint environmental committee with management. This has been working on shaping a sustainability policy, improved recycling, ways of making jobs and travel to work more sustainable, the heating/cooling of the building and also won commitments to make a new wing of the building carbon neutral. The committee also showed the potential for winning new negotiating rights and structures.
An open day arranged at the start of the project was attended by around 200 staff (25 per cent) from curators to cleaning and security staff. There were stalls and workshops from the Carbon Trust, the local authority and Friends of the Earth.
Eighty staff signed up to attend an environmental reps training workshop - twenty took part in the first training workshop. A key element was an energy audit using Carbon Trust materials which provided reps with the skills needed to undertake simple energy audits in their work areas. Around 12 audits have been carried out (out of around 20 BM zones) and the results fed into the environmental committee.
The British Museum's energy bill at the start of the project was £1.1 million a year. The joint environmental committee agreed a target of 17 per cent savings in CO2 emissions over two years (approx. 31,000 tonnes of CO2). The museum has cut its annual energy bill by 7 per cent in one year. Support is being provided to monitor further carbon savings.
"Senior management at DEFRA York has given the greenworkplaces project strong endorsement at the joint union/management whitley council."
TUC greenworkplaces project report, 2007
At DEFRA's York office which employs 600 staff, energy initiatives are discussed through the existing negotiating committee (JNC) on site, with FDA, PCS and Prospect the recognised unions.
For the first time management analysed energy use and supplied this data to the JNC. This showed that the office's electricity usage (2005/6) was 1,934,780 kWh - or approximately 832 tonnes CO2. This equated to 136 kW of electricity per square metre of office space - against a government benchmark of 92kW per square metrefor offices of a similar type.
The JNC was seeking a 32 per cent improvement in energy efficiency (broadly in line with overall DEFRA targets for its estate between 2006 and 2010). Senior management agreed to negotiate a joint sustainability policy with the union with firm, measurable carbon implications.
The JNC worked with management on ways to better communicate energy use information and targets and how to achieve savings. Awareness raising activities included a 'switch off' campaign. The JNC is also considering gas consumption.
A staff awareness day attracted interest from more than 50 employees wanting to play a part in energy saving initiatives. Sixteen participants attended an environmental reps training day - all rated it 'good' or 'very good'.
During the project green reps at York met former environment secretary David Miliband to discuss progress of this initiative.
This report and the early but significant steps we have taken to develop a green agenda reflecting the growing awareness of the impact of burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas upon the earth's climate. The consequences are thought to be devastating - melting ice caps, floods, storms, droughts, heatwaves, many species lost forever, economic depression and an increase in world poverty. Many believe we have less than 10 years to turn back the tide.
Campaigns around environmental and wider sustainable development issues are important in both building alliances and encouraging members to become active around green issues in the workplace. This third strand of our work is summarised in this section.
We have a body of policy around issues such as fairtrade, sweatshops, labour rights and related 'ethical and consumer' issues. In campaigning on these issues our aims have been two-fold:
In 2003, we produced a joint booklet with No Sweat: Sweatshops and Globalisation - an activist response. We are now a formal supporter of Fairtrade Fortnight (the only union to do so) - the annual celebration of fairtrade products. We have promoted and supported Trade Justice Movement campaigns such as 'Vote for Trade Justice' and 'RightCorporateWrongs' which secured amendments to the Companies Act 2006, requiring listed companies to report on their environmental and social impacts.
It is clear from responses we have received that many PCS members have an interest in fairtrade and related issues and are active around them outside the workplace. For some it has been a natural progression to move from promoting fairtrade to engagement with wider environmental issues in the workplace.
It is also fair to say that we have taken a slightly different approach to many other unions in that as well as having a policy interest in these issues we are keen to work alongside other organisations to promote campaigns in a practical way in the workplace in recognition of the organising opportunities this affords.
We have long been affiliated to Baby Milk Action which supports the boycott of Nestle because of the company's marketing of breast milk substitutes in developing countries.
In 2002, a motion was carried at conference agreeing to affiliate to, and promote the work of the UK solidarity organisation No Sweat which campaigns against sweatshops.
A separate motion carried at ADC 2002 agreed to support Oxfam's Trade Justice campaign through raising awareness among PCS members of issues relating to globalisation and international trade and using members' power as consumers to encourage the use of fairtrade products in workplaces.
In 2004 the NEC agreed to affiliate to the Trade Justice Movement - a broad coalition of development organisations, unions and environmental groups concerned with the harmful impact of international trade rules on the poorest people in the world and the environment.
In 2005 the NEC agreed to:
"Giving the green light to [nuclear] new build is a bad decision. The public consultation was deliberatley misleading, there is still no solution to dealing with nuclear waste, and taking the nuclear option now will strangle the real solutions to climate change and energy security."
Motion A50 carried at ADC 2006 instructs the NEC to:
Since 2006 PCS has been supporting Greenpeace and other members of the Green Alliance to oppose government support for building a new generation of nuclear power stations in the UK.
In a historic collaboration between trade unions and environmental campaign groups PCS joined Friends of the Earth, UNISON and the Welsh Anti-Nuclear Alliance in supporting Greenpeace's succesful legal challenge to the government's 2006 energy review, The Energy Challenge.
Greenpeace's case was that the government was in breach of its commitment to 'the fullest public consultation'. The High Court judge agreed, saying the process had been 'seriously flawed' and 'unfair'. In response to the High Court ruling AGS Chris Baugh issued a statement on behalf of PCS calling on the government to pursue renewable energy rather than supporting more nuclear power stations.
Last year the government continued its undemocratic pursuit of nuclear power rather than focusing on energy saving initiatives and investing in renewable technologies. A second consultation in 2007 was no less biased in favour of nuclear energy and denounced by both Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth who, along with PCS, pulled out of the process altogether. A government White Paper Meeting the Energy Challenge was published in January 2008.
We voiced our concerns not only with the process but also at the small print in the White Paper, which will allow the government to pass the bill to the taxpayer if private companies do not meet the full costs of dealing with waste or decommissioning nuclear power stations. Given that it could be over 150 years between starting a new plant and decommissioning, these costs estimates are likely to be a gross understatement of the real financial risks to the taxpayer.
A spokesperson from Greenpeace has described PCS's support in this campaign as "hugely constructive" - a landmark in showing that support on this issue extends well beyond traditional green pressure groups.
At the time of writing Greenpeace are considering whether to launch a further legal challenge.
"We are the last generation that can stop climate change from reaching catastrophic levels."
Friends of the Earth
Motion A50 carried at ADC 2006 instructs the NEC to lobby for new legislation to require the UK government to cut carbon dioxide every year by three per cent.
We have been supporting Friends of the Earth's 'The Big Ask' campaign that is demanding a strong climate change law with legally binding targets to cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions - the main cause of climate change - by three per cent a year or at least 80 per cent by 2050 in the UK.
The demand for legislation was supported by over 400 MPs and a wide range of environmental, conservation and development organisations.
In March 2007 the government published a draft climate change bill. A period of public consultation followed and a final bill was introduced into the House of Lords in November 2007. However the target it sets for reducing CO2 emissions is too little too late - a 60 per cent reduction in 1990 levels by 2050 - so we believe the bill needs to be strengthened if it is to be effective in tackling climate change. Emissions from international aviation and shipping - presently excluded - also need to be included in the bill.
In January 2008, a Labour MP, Nigel Griffiths, tabled an early day motion (EDM 736) that notes that the bill's targets are not ambitious enough and that developed countries may have to reduce their emissions by up to 80 per cent.
We have been working closely with Friends of the Earthboth in supporting the Big Ask campaign and, once a climate change bill was introduced, lobbying for amendments. We have:
PCS nationally to:
PCS nationally to:
PCS nationally to:
PCS nationally to:
Waste is segregated at source into four main categories:
The bulk of the waste in categories 1-3 is segregated at the recycling plant into different waste streams. Hazardous waste (used cooking oil and strip lighting) is removed by licenced contractors, mercury is safely removed before recycling and cooking oil is used as a bio-fuel to generate electricity.
An average of 96 per cent of waste is recycled diverting 24.2 tons from landfill (N.B. these waste figures are currently provided by a consultant company and certificates are being sought from the waste contractor to validate them).
We reduced the amount of waste in 2007 compared with 2006 by 23 per cent from 34.1 tons to 26.2 tons.
Electricity purchased for PCS HQ is generated from a combined heat and power (CHP) plant. CHP electricity is generated as a by-product of waste incineration and is Climate Change Levy (CCL) exempt.
We are monitoring energy usage with a view to setting realistic targets to reduce kWh.
Time clocks have been altered for heating, air handling and lighting controls and have resulted in reducing the operational hours by 21 hours per week (an approximate 26 per cent saving in energy consumption).
We are carrying out a review of lighting with the aim of increasing energy efficiency, taking into consideration natural light sources and occupation levels. We are also exploring the cost implications of replacing the current lighting tubes with energy efficient ones.
We have installed water savers in each toilet cistern (41 in HQ) saving one litre of water every flush. If each toilet is flushed just three times a day the savings would be 31 million litres of water per annum.
PCS View and Activate are currently printed on sustainably sourced paper. Due to costs, magazines with a print run greater than 25,000 are not at present printed on recycled paper. We intend to review this when print contracts are re-tendered at the end of 2008. Since the start of 2008 all magazines with a print run less than 25,000 are printed on recycled. The PCS diary is printed on 100 per cent recycled paper and we now print all our stationary on 100 per cent recycled.
The polythene wrappers used to distribute View has been bio-degradable since 2005 and includes a recycling message. We are looking into the costs of producing a biodegradable polywrap for Activate.
Forty five per cent of office paper used at HQ is made from a recycled source. We are carrying out trials on new photocopiers which set to increase this figure. The paper used is 100 per cent chlorine bleach free.
We have changed our stationery supplier to Wiles Greenworl which has greener credentials than the previous supplier we used (and is also cheaper). The company has implemented a recycling programme and collects waste paper and toner from customers at the same time as deliveries.
We have purchased a supply of customised re-use address labels made from recycled content to enable the reuse of envelopes, jiffy bags etc for external posting.
We have reduced our expenditure on disposable equipment including crockery, cutlery and table covers by 60 per cent. Micro-fiber cloths are also used which has removed the need for sanitizer sprays for cleaning work surfaces. Our spending on cleaning chemicals has reduced by 30 per cent since 2004.
Disposable nappies used in the nursery are being replaced with bio-degradable supplies as each type is re-ordered.
New office furniture is manufactured from a minimum of 55 per cent recycled content to conform to government standards. The manufacturer is also certfied to ISO14001 and uses FSC sourced raw materials. 96 per cent of the finished product is recyclable (wood, metal and some plastics).
We have created 'greening PCS' pages on the staff intranet with information, advice and tips on greening the workplace. We have also recruited green 'contacts' for many HQ departments/regional offices - their role is to be an ambassador on green issues and ensure that measures we have put in place are being followed across the organisation. The staff union, GMB, now has two (job-share) green reps.
An 'ethical/fairtrade' staff awareness raising day took place in February 2008 at HQ in Clapham during Fairtrade Fortnight.
In 2006 the NEC agreed to review the PCS ethical investment policy. As a result we now have a proactive, inclusive policy of only investing in companies which pas a 'sustainability' test i.e. the riskier an activity is to the 'environment' (in its widest sense) the less is it 'sustainable'.
The 'sustainability' of our portfolio is determined from two perspectives:
The method, pioneered by our investment managers Sarasin Chiswell, involves looking at companies' environmental and social risks and the countries where they operate to determine whether an investment is sustainable.
Those companies, countries or institutions which comply with minimum standards, are deemed to be 'sustainable' companies, eligible for an investment in the PCS portfolio.
As well as being a much more sophisticated approach to ethical investment, this method also has the advantage that we are more likely to be able to influence a company's behaviour than by applying purely negative criteria. It can also be applied to the whole of the PCS investment portfolio.
A sustainability audit was carried out in October 2007 resulting in 15 companies being rated 'unsustainable'. Stocks in these companies have since been sold.
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