Strengthening Trade Union Participation In International Environmental Processes: A Joint UNEP – Sustainlabour Project

In April 2007, UNEP and the International Labour Foundation for Sustainable Development (Sustainlabour), in partnership with the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), and its affiliates, the International Labour Organization (ILO), and the World Health Organization (WHO), launched a two-year project on “Strengthening trade union participation in international environmental processes”, with the financial support of the government of Spain.

It aimed to improve engagement of workers and trade unions in the development and implementation of environmental policy. It is currently implemented in four regions, namely Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean. It focuses on topics identified during the Trade Union Assembly on Labour and the environment – WILL 2006:

  • Climate change mitigation and adaptation, and the need for alternative methods of production and just transition;
  • Sound and sustainable management of chemicals and how to integrate just employment into environmental policy design.
© flickr/Bob Jagendorf
© flickr/Confederación Sindical de las Américas


  • To address the gap in representation of workers and trade unions in international environmental processes; 
  • develop the capacities of workers and trade unions to understand the environmental issues at stake and thus 
  • improve the quality of their representation in international fora and meetings on environment.


The project approach is three fold:
  1. Capacity building, with a view to increasing participation of workers and trade unions in international environmental negotiations;
  2. Adaptation and replication of selected trade union initiatives at the workplace level; and
  3. Awareness raising among workers on environmental issues and the link between environmental sustainability and labour rights, including occupational health and safety.


  • Increased participation of workers and trade unions in international environmental negotiations such as climate change, chemicals, as well as in international environmental meetings as demonstrated by the number of position papers drafted and shared on climate change, chemicals, green jobs, green economy, and social cohesion in a globalized world.
  • Increased number of trade union policies including environment and climate change components, as a result of the better understanding of the issues at stake and their implications for the world of labour.
  • Adoption of long‐term policy options focusing on opportunities presented by a transition to a green economy through the creation of Environment and Sustainable Development Units within at least two trade union bodies – in LAC and Africa.
  • Increased capacities of workers and trade unions to replicate/adapt case studies on environment in their workplaces and their communities.
  • Increased awareness of the linkages between environmental and labour issues among workers and trade unions which has translated into the active participation and contribution of labour to the UNEP Green Jobs Initiative and the production of the Green jobs report in 2008; and in the production of the up-coming UNEP Green Economy Report. With regard to the latter, workers and trade unions are part of the Green Economy Coalition, which is calling, among others, for greener stimulus packages to address the current economic and financial crisis.

The project has been able to lead to durable and self‐sustained processes and synergies with the involvement of the target audience and key stakeholders, but also in building complementarity with other projects such as the SAICM project of Sustainlabour; the ILO Green jobs initiative; and the UNEP Green Economy Initiative.


© Zuhair Ahmad
Training and capacity building materials
  • "Climate change, its consequences on employment and trade union action”  
  • Training manual on “Sound and sustainable management of chemicals” 
  • Global training of trainers on climate change and chemicals, May 2008, Geneva
  • Regional and national trainings on climate change and chemicals
  • Ad‐hoc preparatory workshops to international environmental conferences, and other on‐demand training Sessions –e.g. the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), the Conferences of Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the UNEP Governing Council / Global Ministerial Environment Forum (GC/GMEF) 
    Case studies
  • Training on renewable energies for construction workers in Peru
  • Global pesticides project replicated in a selection of four French Speaking African countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal)
  • Environmental assessment in Malaysian hotels
  • Creating an Environment and Sustainable development Coordination position for ITUC‐Africa 

Related links: