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Sustainlabour was founded to help the international trade union movement build sustainable development proposals and, especially, to defend the environment. Understanding the need for environmental sustainability and its consequences for workers and their communities is one of the major challenges for the trade union movement. The work carried out by Sustainlabour marked a turning point on the one hand in trade union positions around the issue and, on the other, in many other actors' understanding, such as NGOs, environmental activists and governments, of the need to align labour and environmental objectives.
Sustainlabour represented a space where unions could talk over policies focused on improving social-working conditions and the environment, where experiences and best practices could be shared, and where unions could learn from each other and agree on global proposals.
During its time, Sustainlabour witnessed the creation of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and it worked with them so that environmental issues were included in their proposals.
Sustainlabour organised the first international meeting of trade unions on environmental challenges. The First Trade Union Assembly on Labour and the Environment in the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) headquarters. In this meeting, and for the first time, unions supported the Kyoto Protocol.