The Characteristics of UK Unions' Environmental Activism and the Agenda's Utility as a Vehicle for Union Renewal

  • Thomas Farnhill Aston University


A survey of 22 UK unions’ environmental activism suggests that it is generally unrelated to either membership trends or unions’ financial health, although large, multi-sector unions are generally the most active. Adequate resourcing, discussion of environmental matters at senior levels of the union and positive relations with external environmental organisations are all associated with environmental activism. Although the agenda appears popular with members and encounters little resistance from employers few unions currently evidence serious or regular engagement and it is largely confined to large and/or public sector workplaces where the union is already well-established. Limited adoption may be attributable to a combination of the absence of supportive legislation and public funding, the agenda’s inability to generate an attractive ‘product’ for members, and already crowded local agendas. However, most unions anticipate their environmental agenda expanding in the future.

Key Words: unions; environment; labour-environment relationship; employee relations; union renewal


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