Climate proofing our work

Wednesday 24 June 2020

Today, workers around the world are joining the conversation to review their companies’ plans to achieve carbon neutrality in the context of #CEPOW, the Global Day of Action to Climate and Employment Proof our Work. As one step, UNI has asked affiliates to collaborate with employers to shrink the carbon footprint of the buildings in which they work. We take a look at some examples of initiatives highlighted by UNI Europa affiliates in the ICTS sector.

“We know, notably from experiences with digitalisation, that when workers aren’t involved from the start, transitions are exclusionary and deliver for the narrow interests of the shareholder’s pocket. We also know that a vast majority of working people don’t want to contribute to the destruction of the environment. Workers must be empowered to see the workplace as a space for environmental action. We need all hands on deck for this and that means involving workers in long term plans and immediate implementation. That is best achieved through collective bargaining and social dialogue at all levels,” said Oliver Roethig, Regional Secretary at UNI Europa.

Various initiatives highlighted by unions have included prolonging the life of electronics, promoting biodiversity and reducing transport emissions. Keeping ahead of the curve and reducing emissions at company level requires workers’ involvement.

In Finland, workers at DNA adopted a teleworking package prior to the crisis which is saving significant emissions associated to transport. While there are concerns regarding teleworking, notably around employers externalising energy costs, this scheme shows that when done in a worker-focused manner, teleworking can yield climate benefits.

In Norway, unions have been collaborating with FAIR, an organisation with focus on reuse and solidarity. Estimates suggest that 80% of CO2 emissions of laptops lifecycle occur prior to its first use.  By refurbishing IT equipment and sending it to partner organisations in the Global South, notably in Malawi, FAIR promote a reuse of office hardware.

Meanwhile, three years after setting up beehives on the rooves of their offices in Belgium, ACV Puls workers at Fujitsu have been involved in making honey and contributing to efforts to avoid a collapse in bee populations, which are essential pollinators for many plant species.

The expanding ICTS sector accounts for 5-9% of electricity use in the EU. The EU warns that if left unchecked, the ICTS footprint could increase de 14% of global emissions by 2040.

“These initiative are certainly worthwhile but it is urgent that we make best practice in environmental standards the norm across whole sectors. It is no coincidence that those countries that have the best environmental performance also have the largest collective bargaining coverage. Polluters need to be held to account. A strong collective workers’ voice is essential to that,” said Oliver Roethig.

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